Bread is one of those foods that I love to eat, but had never made myself at home. Though it’s such a staple item eaten all around the world, I always found it a little intimidating. Those three simple ingredients (flour, water, and salt) needed to create a delicious loaf are in most households, but the process of converting those ingredients felt like nothing short of alchemy. Recently, I finally decided to just go for it and make my all time favorite bread: sourdough.
The most important component of sourdough is the starter dough, which will give the bread that essential tangy flavor, and provide the yeast necessary for the dough to rise. To make the starter dough mix 4oz water with 4oz of all-purpose flour in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature.
The next day, ‘feed’ the dough by removing all but 4oz of starter and feeding it 4oz of flour and 4oz of water, mixing thoroughly. Repeat this process every 12 hours for a few days. The amount of time for the starter can vary, but it helps to keep it at a consistent temperature away from the cold. You will know it’s ready when it is very bubbly and even a little foamy on top.
Place any extra starter dough in the refrigerator, and feed once a week to maintain. When it came time to discard and feed the ready starter, I poured some into jars instead of discarding, and gifted to some friends.
To make the bread: add 30 grams of active starter to 75 grams of all-purpose flour, and 75 grams of water. Mix thoroughly, cover, and let sit overnight or for about 12 hours. Once the leaven is bubbly you know it’s ready. To double check that it is ready, drop a small dollop of the leaven into a bowl of water – if it floats, you’re good to go.
Mix all of the leaven in a large bowl with 475 grams of room temperature water. Mix it in with your hands until the leaven has dissolved into the water. Add 350 grams of all-purpose flour, and 350 grams of whole wheat flour to the bowl with leaven and water. You can also do 700 grams of all-purpose if you don’t want whole wheat, but I think it gives it a richer flavor. Mix until you no longer see any dry flour. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours. Once the dough has rested, dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt into 50 grams of water and add to dough. Mix with your hands to combine.
Fold the dough, in the bowl, by grabbing one end and folding the dough in half. Then, move the bowl a quarter turn and fold again. Repeat until you have folded it over four times. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, then repeat the folding process. Do this process a total of 4 times, every 30 minutes. After you have folded it for the 4th time, let the dough rest for about 45 minutes, until it looks a little puffed.
Sprinkle flour on your countertop, and turn the dough over onto the flour. Cut the dough in half to pre-shape the loaves. Shape into rounds by running a pastry scraper or blunt knife around the bottom edge. This will start to make the top of the dough taut, and give you a more even shape. Let dough rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare two proofing baskets or bowls by lining with a kitchen towel and dusting them with flour. It helped me to lightly spray the towels with water first before adding the flour. Rub the flour into the towel to create a layer of flour on the towel.
Give the loaves their final shape by dusting the tops with flour, then turning them over so the flour side is down. Gently take the top lip of the loaf, and fold it into the center, then repeat with the other three sides. The idea here is to make the top more taut. Cup your hands around the edges of the loaf to give it its final shape. Sprinkle with flour, then transfer to the towel lined baskets or bowls, smooth side down. Cover with plastic, and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours, or place in refrigerator and let sit overnight.
When ready to bake – place a dutch oven or heavy pot with lid in the oven and pre-heat to 500F. Remove the hot dutch oven from oven, and place one of the loaves inside, smooth side up. Score the top with a sharp knife. You can do three diagonal lines like I did, or do an x in the middle.
With the lid on, bake at 500F for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 475F for 15 minutes. After the first 30 minutes of baking, remove lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes – or until the crust has a deep golden brown color.
Remove from oven and place the loaf on a cooling sheet for at least 10 minutes before slicing. You will see the quintessential holes filling each delicious loaf. Enjoy it fresh and warm with toppings of choice.
We take many trips to Disney Parks, both domestic and abroad, and the work of Walt Disney Imagineering has had a tremendous influence on our sense of design. We will be traveling to Tokyo Disney Resort later this year, and here we thought that we would share some of our favorite things about Disneyland Park, as we eagerly await what the Imagineers have in store for us in Japan.
New Orleans Square is an environment that begs to be explored, rather than simply passed through. The streets take a winding path that set up a series of discoveries that are not evident from the waterfront.
The masts of that ship rising up from behind these buildings create the illusion of additional layers of depth. This implies the extension of the space beyond the visible structures, increasing the scope of the land.
The implication of a world just beyond what we can see is also present on the second floor balconies. The set dressing creates characters who live here, such as the artist who is painting this picture. The props combined with “off-screen” sound make New Orleans Square feel so alive.
Within the adobe archways of Rancho del Zocalo, we can rest our weary feet, shielded from the harsh sun of the American Southwest.
Should we venture beyond the safe confines of the hacienda to see what awaits in the town of Rainbow Ridge?
‘Character paint’ and ‘character plaster,’ seen here in Fantasy Faire, are great ways to communicate the idea of a lived in environment that has a sense of place.
This crumbling facade hints at a rich, storied past. Many people have inhabited this space before, working with different materials, speaking different languages, and facing a harsh environment. We don’t know for certain just how this building came to look this way, but our imaginations can provide the details.
The excellent forced perspective of the Indiana Jones Adventure is extremely convincing when partially obscured through the jungle.
Be careful not to look into the eyes of Mara, or else this small glimpse of daylight will be the last that you ever see, as you board your troop transport in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
No wonder Toad Hall needs so many fireplaces, being at the foot of that snowy mountain.
When we arrive at Main Street, U.S.A. we are immediately aware that we are at a time of transition where the horse and buggy exists side by side with the motorcar.
The gas lamps have begun to be replaced by the electric light, but the remnants of that bygone era still remain.
Every piece of set dressing that you see in the shops of Main Street, U.S.A. is giving an idea of what types of people own these shops and inhabit this land.
On a windy day, Mary Poppins is blown every which way on this weathervane atop Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.
What lies beyond the visible walls of Fantasyland? The wide open vistas of Storybook Land provide our imaginations with the necessary context to fill in those gaps.
These wonderfully composed, highly detailed landscapes are perhaps the most direct representation in all of Disneyland of the world in which the Disney animated classics take place.
Immediately upon entering the queue for Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the tone is set with a glimpse into the Evil Queen’s dungeon, and the dread that she will stop at nothing to afflict our heroine with the Sleeping Death.
From Frontierland a magic portal opens up, giving us a window into another exotic world. This is a special quality of Disneyland, which is different from the way that the much larger Magic Kingdom gradually transitions from one land to another.
Space Station 77 seems to float above the horizon, promoting an optimism about space travel, and promising adventure.
The hedges around it’s a small world make the structure feel light and airy, maintaining the scale that the interior of the attraction works in.
This boarded up tunnel is one of the last remnants of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which was removed to build Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It is now a piece of real world park history that also functions as an in universe history for Frontierland.
This British (we still like to pretend it is Swiss) settlement may have temporarily tamed the jungle, but we know from the Jungle Cruise and Temple of the Forbidden Eye, that in Adventureland, nature will always win out over man.
While the Sailing Ship Columbia is in dry dock, her crew can find a hot meal and a warm bed at Fowler’s Inn. This sleepy area of the waterfront offers a contrast to the hustle and bustle of New Orleans Square.
The calm stillness of the Blue Bayou lulls us to sleep before we are whisked down a waterfall into a dreamy underworld of decaying pirate corpses.
These are only a few of the myriad ways that Disney Parks have created the perfect setting for our imaginations to run wild. Experiencing new parks is always a thrill, but Disneyland will always be our favorite. Over the past 60 years, it has developed a set of quirks that give it a unique charm that is hard to beat.
The final part of our kitchen remodel was finishing up the attached laundry room. When conceiving of the layout, size was the biggest consideration. This is a very narrow space that was certainly not built with the size of 21st century appliances in mind, so the very first decision we made was to stack the washer and dryer, instead of having them side by side. We knew we wanted to de-emphasize how far the washer and dryer extended out, and wanted to have a visual divider from room to room, so we put a curtain in the doorframe to create a soft separation from the breakfast nook.
We were able to make the most out of this small space by having a custom cabinet built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who also built our kitchen cabinets and breakfast nook. We gave them details on how we wanted it to look, and they created it to fit the space and our needs perfectly.
Our kitties, Titan and Atlas, have their own private doorway to enter their litter box, and the bottom of the cabinet rolls out for easy cleaning.
On the opposite wall from the washer and dryer, there was just enough room to put up some hooks that I use to hang a few small purses and scarves.
A couple of small shelves on the wall complete the room by giving us a little extra space for storing items. It may be tiny, but our new laundry room fits all of our needs, and the kitties seem to be pleased with it too. It just goes to show that you don’t need to knock down walls in order to make a space more functional.
After having visited Manhattan two years ago during the Christmas season, we decided that this year we would take a trip to Brooklyn. We have some friends who are living in the borough, and it’s one part of New York City that we had never explored before.
I had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge during school field trips, but James had never had the opportunity. We bundled up and braved the winds to cross over from Manhattan.
From the Brooklyn Bridge, we had a great view of James’ favorite bridge, the Manhattan Bridge.
This hilarious sign, which has not quite deterred lovers from vandalizing city property with their padlocks, was a warm welcome to the borough’s personality.
We spent the night at a hotel right across the street from Borough Hall (formerly the seat of government for the City of Brooklyn), which we had a great view of from our room window.
After crossing the bridge and settling into our hotel room we took to the streets for the day. Not far from our hotel was the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which gave us a chance to see other landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, locations that we would like to visit on later trips to New York.
The highlight of the trip was strolling past all of the 19th century brownstones that line the streets of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. It was very reminiscent of our recent trip to Boston, where we saw an abundance of row houses on Beacon Hill.
Many of the residences were tastefully decorated for the season.
Park Slope offered another pleasant residential neighborhood to walk through, right across from Prospect Park.
We also visited the Brooklyn Central Library, which is part of a completely separate library system serving only that borough, not affiliated with the New York Public Library.
We then headed towards Green-Wood Cemetery, which feels like a storybook setting. Many of the most famous (or infamous) New Yorkers have been buried here, such as “Boss” Tweed. Here is the gothic gate that serves as the northern entrance.
The cemetery is a vast collection of statues and mausoleums, in addition to the expected headstones. Meandering through the curved pathways is a very peaceful experience.
We had a wonderful stay in Brooklyn, and were so glad to finally explore the area. We will continue to travel to New York City when we can, revisiting the boroughs that we have seen, and exploring new ones as well.
This year for our holiday cards, we went a different route and decided to print one design, as opposed to previous years, where we crafted individual cards for each family.
When brainstorming ideas for the cards, we knew we wanted a holiday appropriate design that would also be representative of this past year. Since this year has been very focused on remodeling and really settling into our home, we decided on featuring our newly finished fireplace and hearth.
We started with a pencil sketch, and then digitally did some cleanup, and added color. I love that the cards have the hand sketched look to them, making them warm and inviting. Happy Holidays!
After a full year of planning and saving, we have finally completed the first major remodel in our home: the kitchen. As soon as we bought our house, I knew that the kitchen had to be one of the first major projects. Not only do I spend a lot of time in the space, but the previous kitchen looked unappealing and was hardly even functional. The changes we made compliment the texture palette of the house, provide functionality and organization, and give the space the charm that it was begging for.
As you can see from this before and after, we mostly kept the layout of the kitchen the same. However, there are some major differences in the sizing and features of cabinets and appliances. The previous cabinet doors were very small and poorly spaced, making it almost impossible to store anything larger than a medium sized pot. Most of the drawers were either broken or didn’t open, the faucet was turned to one side and refused to budge, the vent did not function, and the teeny oven couldn’t even fit a standard cookie sheet. These were all very frustrating issues for someone who cooks as much as I do. We had our custom cabinets built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who were able to construct everything just as we envisioned.
Even before we bought our house, I had a general idea of how I wanted the kitchen to look. Once we had the measurements, James created this concept art to help us figure out exactly how it would all come together. Though some changes were made to the final version, the feeling you get when you see something you designed come to life is nothing short of exhilarating.
The biggest change to the layout was opting for open shelves above the stovetop, instead of cabinets like it had before. This change has been so impactful not only visually, but also functionally. I absolutely love that the tile goes all the way up to the ceiling, and now I can display more items while keeping common pantry items organized and within reach.
The small oven was one of my biggest complaints, so after a lot of consideration I decided to go big and add not one, but two standard size ovens. I have always loved the look and flexibility double ovens provide, and I’m already so glad I went in that direction.
Going with butcher block countertops was one of the very first decisions that we made. We picked out this beautiful acacia wood that has a wonderful variety in color. It’s perfect for the the galley layout of our kitchen, and adds so much warmth and country charm.
One of my favorite features of the kitchen is the wall mount faucet. The butcher block counter top dictated that the faucet not be mounted to the counter, so it created the opportunity for it to come out of the tile instead. For the farmhouse sink, James insisted that the apron absolutely had to be fluted to breakup the large white front, and I couldn’t agree more.
Aside from the kitchen galley, this remodel also included the breakfast nook corner. The same team that made our cabinets made this built-in bench with a top that lifts for extra storage.
Here’s a look at the corner before the remodel.
We kept the original built-in corner cabinet which we always liked, and just gave it a fresh coat of paint to match the new cabinets.
There are a few items in our new kitchen from our trip to Guatemala that we previously had on display in our old apartment. Not only do they work well with our terra cotta floor tile, but they provide a sense of continuity with our first home together.
We felt that it was very important to incorporate a variety of patterns with these pillows to liven up the breakfast nook.
We also added several new plants throughout the space, which are a simple way of adding life to any room. I made these macramé hanging planters using twine to fill in some of the space above the bench without feeling too heavy.
I am so pleased with how the entire remodel came out, and relieved to have such a large project completed. I have already been busy using the new space, and look forward to many delicious meals that will be cooked in our lovely new kitchen.
The holiday season is in full swing, so I have been baking to my heart’s content. Gingerbread is a classic holiday baked treat, and this recipe is for the true gingerbread lover. The flavor is ultra rich with a perfect amount of holiday spice, which pairs wonderfully with unsweetened coffee and tea. Making the gingerbread as individual sized mini bundt cakes not only makes hosting easier, it also helps for saving them for later – and these mini bundt gingerbread cakes get even better a few days after making.
Ingredients: 1 cup oatmeal stout, 1 cup molasses, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp ground ginger, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground gloves, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour bundt cake pan, shaking out excess flour. Place in the refrigerator. Add oatmeal stout and molasses to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then add baking soda. Let stout/molasses mixture sit and cool.
Beat together eggs, sugars, and oil, then add molasses and stout mixture. Add flour, baking powder, and spices and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Pour batter into bundt cake pan, filling to nearly the top.
Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cakes). Remove from pan by flipping it upside down onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
After our apple picking adventure, we came home with five pounds of apples just waiting to be enjoyed in various ways. Naturally, one such way had to be warm and sweet, so I decided to bake up a simple apple dutch baby – perfect for autumn mornings.
Ingredients: 3 small apples, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, pinch of nutmeg, 4 Tbsp butter, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Peel and slice apples into thin pieces, then add to a bowl with cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. In a cast iron skillet melt 2 Tbsp butter and add apples. Cook until apples are becoming tender (about 3 minutes).
Remove apples from skillet, and wipe clean. Place skillet in hot oven, and let it heat. While skillet is heating in oven whisk eggs, flour, milk and sugar in a bowl. Add remaining 2Tbsp butter to hot skillet and melt. Once the butter has melted add cooked apples to center of skillet, then add batter. Cook at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until the batter rises and edges start to crisp.
Serve immediately with syrup, and fresh apple slices. Best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee for an even more comforting breakfast meal.
One of the things that amazed me about California when I first moved out here was the varied terrain. It really is true that you can find desert, ocean, and snowcapped mountain landscapes all within driving distance. Last week James and I took a drive up to Oak Glen, California to adventure around the lovely farms hugging the San Bernardino Mountains.
We went apple picking at Willowbrook Apple Farm, which was filled with Stayman Winesap apple trees that were over one hundred years old.
A lot of the smaller apples were within a hand’s reach…
…but a lot of the big red ones were very high on the trees.
After picking apples, we headed to the farm’s cider press station where you can fill a basket with apples prepped for cider. In order to get a good balance of sweet and tart, they had both Winesap and Fuji apples.
We were able to use the press ourselves, and fill up a container with deliciously fresh cider.
The day made for a perfect autumn outing, and a new tradition that we plan to repeat every year.