Venice

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen from our intermission. Midterms were r-o-u-g-h and I’m overjoyed to be joining everyone again from my corner of the internet. I’ll be posting an update on my Iceland trip soon because I can’t leave you all in suspense for that long, but I’m happy to fill you guys in on my most recent trip to Venice!

I headed to Venice because it has long been a dream of mine to visit and it was there. Tickets were incredibly cheap, so the lodgings and the flights for this trip were under 100 euros. Which is a STEAL for Venice. I’m also trying to take advantage of the downturn in travel due to the pandemic and enjoy some places that have very high tourism rates. Venice is a destination that was described to me as a historical Disneyland for adults and it did deliver. I found there to be quite a few tourists, but according to my gondolier, it wasn’t that many people for this time of year. I have also noticed more tourists in Paris in the past few weeks, so perhaps it’s confirmation bias on my end. I left for Venice on a Tuesday evening around 7pm and this was an earlier flight than originally planned. My friend encouraged me to skip class and I took her advice although the class I was supposed to skip got cancelled so lucky me! I came back on Friday morning and even got a shower before my afternoon class! Look at me living my best life!

The hostel from my first night, très bougie

I got into the Venice airport around 9pm and while I thought this was pretty early, to the Italians this was the equivalent of midnight. I had to wait an hour for the bus to come to take me to the train station and seriously contemplated walking…it may have been quicker. Thankfully, J was up for a chat and I was able to while away the time on the phone. The Venice airport is a fair distance from nearby lodgings and almost 40 minutes away from Venice which you can take buses to. I chose to stay across the causeway from Venice on my first night because the hostel I was staying at in the city had strict check in times that I was arriving after. This ended up being a not great decision for buses because the buses were running much more frequently to and from the city center of venice than to Mestre Train Station which is what I needed. The bus ticket cost about 8 euros which I paid for twice because there are two different transport groups, ATVO and ACTV which run buses from the airport. ACTV is the public transit agency for Venice and I bought my original ticket with them, but when their bus didn’t show, I bought another ticket from ATVO. I also took the chance to buy a vaporetto pass at the airport which was very convenient because they don’t get activated until the first time you swipe. The vaporetto are the ferries that run all around the Venetian lagoon and I made good use of my two day pass, which was 30 euros. The hostel I stayed in outside of Venice, Anda Venice, was a very nice hostel for the price and very modern. However, as J has pointed out while I grumbled about my lack of sleep on these trips, hostels may not be for my delicate sensibilities. However, my budget does not really care about my delicate sensibilities so hostels it is for now! I had picked up a sandwich on my way out of Paris and ate before my flight so, once I finally made it to the hostel, I crashed but set an alarm for an early morning the next day.

The next day, I walked back to the Mestre Train Station, where I had been dropped off by the bus the previous evening. I bought a train ticket for the train that takes you into the Venetian city center which was about 1.40 euros which was a deal! Once in Venice proper, I took the vaporettos and started exploring the city! I purchased a ticket for a Secret Itinerary tour of the Doge’s Palace in English, which I had to purchase the ticket more than a month in advance. The ticket is a steal for a student because you get a tour in english and access to the Doge’s Palace after you finish the tour. I got to Piazza San Marco earlier than my tour so that I could explore and see the Basilica. There was a huge line, but you’re able to skip that if you make an online reservation which I was able to do the same day. I also stored my backpack in a nearby church, thanks to a Rick Steves recommendation because you cannot take items beyond a certain size into the basilica. I was told the storage was free, but it ended up being 2 euros. Perhaps prices have gone up with the pandemic. Inflation is everywhere! I got into the Basilica on a reduced fare because I am a student, a fact I exploit regularly for all my museum visits. It was a little underwhelming because the Basilica was under a bit of construction so you couldn’t see everything super well but the mosaics inside gleam as beautiful as ever. After my visit, I took the vaporetto up and down the Grand Canal for about an hour so I could ogle all the sites from an easy angle. I used the vaporetto early and often and spent probably half my time in Venice on these boats. I just love being on the water and would be seated outside rain or shine. For lunch, I used another Rick Steves recommendation for Calle de la Russe to find a bar with cheap coffee and sandwiches for a quick bite. The place I went was Osteria da Barco and the service was great as well as the fried rice balls. I returned to St. Marks for my tour at the Doge’s palace and got a close up look at the prison and closed offices in the Doge’s Palace. I walked around the front rooms afterward and marveled at it all. I’ll also mention that the palace has a coat check which was super useful to me because I was carrying around all my earthly belongings after checking out of my first hostel in the morning.

A lovely Venetian garden

After touring the palace, I checked in to my second hostel which had really restricted check in hours starting at 1pm and going until 7pm. The second hostel was called Ostello Santa Fosca and was a converted piece of property from the Church run by volunteers to create a student hostel. The location was amazing! It was really spacious and clean and I loved it! After checking in, I went off in search of gelato and more sites to see. I ended up getting on a vaporetto to the Rialto Bridge and found some gelato nearby. Fortified by sugar, I wandered through the streets of Venice for a few hours, admiring all the beautiful buildings, canals, and churches that I came across. I let myself walk around and get a little lost in the city. My maps were really helpful in getting me to my intended destinations, but Venice is a maze to be explored and enjoyed. I always knew that I could find a vaporetto stop and be back on track easily so I wasn’t scared of getting too lost. I enjoyed getting to wander and see the little beauties of the city. I ended up at a bar called La Palanca for dinner on a more residential island of Venice. It was a lovely, low-key and cheap meal courtesy of a recommendation from a New York Times travel writer. I ordered up a few of the Venetian speciality of cicchetti which are different spreads on toasted bread. Most people know of my enduring love of open faced egg salad sandwiches which is essentially American cicchetti so, I was in heaven. I also really enjoyed the prosecco which at 3.5 euros a glass was cheaper than a pint of beer at a Parisian happy hour. Some people complain that Venice is a bit pricey, but compared to Paris prices, it was a bargain. After my evening repast, I headed back to the hostel for another night of not so great sleep. Again, cheap accommodation but at what cost??

Day Two was just as full as my first day. I set another early alarm to be up early to get in line at Accademia, the famous Venetian art museum. I didn’t purchase a ticket in advance to try and avoid the surcharge added for online transactions, but the Rick Steves recommendation was to get there early if you didn’t buy a ticket in advance. I didn’t make it that early, around 10 am, but slid in just in time to avoid the line. They only allow 400 visitors at a time and it’s a popular destination on rainy days and it was predicted to pour. I got in on a student ticket (2 euros!!! I cannot make these prices up!!) and spent the next two hours wandering around admiring the Venetian art. The art told a fascinating story about the rise and fall of Venice’s political power as much of the artwork centered around religious works with patrons from Venice or allegorical paintings of Venetian history. I really enjoyed looking around and zoning out with some beautiful art so I headed to Frari church afterwards to take in more of Titian’s paintings. It was incredible to see the hodgepodge of masterpieces housed in a single church. After taking in the sites at Frari, I went to grab some more cicchetti for lunch at a bar near the hostel called Teraferma. Absolutely delicious and good value for good food. I used the break to rest up for my lengthy afternoon tour of the lagoon.

The view from Vaporetto 4.2

Due to the rain, I chose to take a tour of the Venetian lagoon via vaporetto. I thought it would be easier for me to do that, rather than continuing to trudge through the very damp streets of Venice. I was correct although it was a very chilly experience! I took the 4.2 Vaporetto to Isola San Michele, the cemetery island. After admiring the cemetery, I took the same vaporetto line to Murano, the glass makers island. I walked around Murano for a little bit and admired the window displays. After Murano, I took the 12 to Burano, the lace makers island. I loved zooming around Burano via vaporetto because it was such a tranquil island and very picturesque. I took the 14 from Burano around the lagoon and just stared at the smaller islands that we passed on our way back to San Marco. Altogether, it was a two to three hour tour and took up most of my afternoon. I had decided to try for a gondola ride after getting back, but it was unfortunately still raining. I passed the time by taking a vaporetto to Salute Church to admire the iconic church from up close. The church was built after a devastating plague outbreak in the 1300s and felt apropos for the moment that we are at in this pandemic. After visiting, I headed back to my hostel for a warm cup of tea and a break from the rain. After my tea, I walked outside to discover it was no longer raining!!! I was terribly excited and ran to the vaporetto stop to take the vaporetto to another stop with gondoliers.

My gondola ride ended at Rialto Bridge

My original plan was to take a gondola ride from the Accademia stop, but I was so nervous that it would start raining again, I got off early at Rialto and found a gondolier who would take me for a quick ride. The normal price for one of these rides is around 80 euro and that price goes up to 120/135 euros after 5pm which had come and gone by this point in the day. I was also nervous to be taking one alone as a single female traveler, but figured that taking one in a crowded tourist area would be safest. After agreeing to a lower price, I jumped into a gondola and was whisked down the Grand Canal. My gondolier Emmanuel was kind enough to take some of the wonderful photos featured in this post. I am glad I did it, but it was a little awkward to do solo. Maybe next time I’ll have my partner along for the ride! After that ride, I practically sprinted through the city to try and make it to the restaurant I had chosen for dinner before it closed. In Paris and France in general, restaurants will often stop seating people within an hour of closing which is annoying and frustrating when you’re looking for a bite to eat outside of normal eating hours. However, the waitstaff at Trattoria Altanella were incredibly kind and seated me with no questions. This trattoria was another recommendation from the New York Times travel section. I felt so lucky because I got to enjoy a fabulous meal undisturbed and listening to the happy chattering of local venetians. I started with a grilled octopus salad, then squid ink pasta and finished with a delicious semifreddo with almond biscotti crushed inside. It was divine!! This dinner was where I had my only pasta dish while in Italy, but I’m hoping to rectify this in the near future!

The semifreddo from Trattoria Altanella

And that was a wrap on my Venetian travels! I left the city around 6am the next day, taking the vaporetto to the bus station to catch a bus to the airport then catching a flight back to Paris. Honestly, I was so nervous for this trip and it turned out better than I could have imagined. Beyond the rain and the very late night bus from the first night, it was a phenomenal experience. I can see why Venice is inundated with millions of tourists each year. It’s an incredible city, but we need to savor it in small sips so we leave room for the locals. Happy travels my friends!

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

I’ve wanted to make lavender shortbread cookies since the beginning of the school year. Ever since my friend Hannah mentioned that she had made some, I hankered to make my own cookies. However, I was held back by my inability to find dried lavender at a store near me. Living in the middle of Baltimore doesn’t make it super easy to find niche ingredients so I put my desire for lavender cookies on the back burner because I knew it would be hard to find what I needed. However, on a recent weekend trip into Virginia, I found a great spice shop that had a huge selection of niche spices! It was a great find and they ship nationwide so I may come back for more! However, now I am left with more dried lavender buds than I think I’ll ever be able to use because I bought an 8 ounce bag…I guess I’ll just have to be creative and find other ways to incorporate them into my cooking! After finding the lavender at last, I told myself that it was time to make my lavender shortbread dreams come true!

As with most floral flavors like rose or elderflower, lavender can pack a punch and if too much is used, the food or beverage item with the flavor may end up tasting soapy. Thankfully, that was not the case with these cookies! I’m also extremely fond of lavender lattes which may make me more disposed to enjoy other food items with lavender in them. This recipe is a straightforward shortbread recipe and includes steps for chilling and rolling out the dough. I was a little overly enthusiastic when microwaving my butter so I ended up chilling for longer than the original recipe. The first step in the recipe has you blend the lavender buds with sugar in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, a mortar and pestle could do the trick to blend the two. What you’re really trying to avoid is biting a chunk of lavender by itself. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, rubbing the lavender with the sugar in between your fingers will do the trick to imbue the sugar with a mild lavender flavor. If you opt for the rubbing, you may want to try to chop up the buds just to avoid eating one whole. Otherwise, I think this recipe turned out great for me and if you have any suggestions on recipes to use up the rest of my lavender, add a comment below! Happy baking!

Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

  • 8 ounces (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender bulbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar + extra for dusting before baking
  • 2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Blend together the sugar and lavender in a food processor or blender for about 30 seconds.
  2. Cream the butter in a separate bowl by itself then add the lavender/sugar mix. Mix until well-combined. Add in the flour and mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on to plastic wrap. Cover with an additional sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Let chill for 30 minutes or more in the refrigerator before the next step.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle some flour onto a hard surface and place the dough disk on top, removing the plastic wrapping. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or your hands to cut out shapes and transfer cut out cookies to parchment paper. Let chill on cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more. (I used a random plastic bit in my kitchen to cut out my cookies and it turned out well so be creative!)
  5. Preheat the oven to 300F. When ready to bake, remove the cookies from the fridge. Setting down the sheet, take some sugar and sprinkle it in an even layer on top of each cookie. After the sugar coat, bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges and aromatic. (You should smell butter more than lavender if you’re relying on your nose)
  6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let cool. Enjoy your cookies!

Makes about 24-30 cookies depending on thickness and shape.

NYT Butterscotch Cake

This recipe was a request from one of my friends and I can never refuse a friend! I put out a call for what people thought I should do next on my Instagram and she sent me this! It looked delicious and it ended up making one monster of a cake! I would recommend making this one for a group, it took me about two weeks to finish it off myself after I gave her half…it was a lot of cake! It was delicious but the flavor may not be for everyone! It doesn’t taste quite like caramel, contrary to the description of the recipe from the New York Times cooking section. It is definitely more of a butterscotch cake and I really enjoyed it. If you’re not a butterscotch person, you could still make the cake but change up the frosting type. The frosting is incredibly thick and lends most of the butterscotch flavor. I also followed the recipe to a tee and I would recommend not doing any crazy substitutions until after you’ve made the recipe once. I’ve found that it’s easier to substitute and get creative when I’m not forced to do so by my lack of ingredients and easier still when I’m substituting in a recipe that I’m familiar with. I’d be pretty hesitant to substitute in a complicated dessert recipe because I worry about it going wrong and wasting all the ingredients!

So how did this recipe go for me? Honestly, pretty well! The cakes were easy enough to make and once made, the cake kept really well in the refrigerator. I’d even say that I preferred to eat it cold out of the refrigerator than fresh out of the oven. This recipe calls for a stand mixer but I used a handheld. If you prefer one or the other, use that, it doesn’t matter a ton in this recipe. I think the trickiest part of the recipe was the icing. I didn’t have a problem making it on the stove but it was really hard to actually ice the cake. I choose to drizzle the icing onto the cake after I had put it on the cake stand and the icing got everywhere. Not only was the icing messy, it also hardens immediately as it cools which meant that it hardened all over my prep table as it oozed off the cake. Definitely not the ideal especially as I was frantically trying to ice it before I was expecting a delivery…. It was messy but I’d be happy to do it again now that I know about the potential for mess. I would recommend doing two passes of icing on top, an initial drizzle over the top then one last pass to even out the layer. Doing a smaller layer twice will help to keep the mess to a minimum and prevent any unnecessary icing loss. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did and happy baking! Let me know if you have any ideas of what I should try next in the comments below!

NYT Butterscotch Cake

For the Cake

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 375 grams (3 cups) self-rising flour
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 240 milliliters (1 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Icing

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 440 grams (2 packed cups) dark/light brown sugar (OG recipe calls for dark, I used light)
  • 120 milliliters (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 305 grams (3 cups) sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake rounds.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, four minutes. Scrape as you cream if you can.
  3. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well and then scraping the bowl. Then alternate adding in flour and buttermilk, starting with flour and ending with flour. Add the vanilla extract last and mix gently to combine.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (It was roughly 650 grams in each pan for me). Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out into racks and let cool completely.
  5. For the icing, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and let bubble for five minutes, whisking constantly to prevent any of the mixture from burning.
  6. After five minutes, carefully and slowly add the buttermilk, stirring constantly until it comes to a roiling boil. Remove from heat and add salt. Transfer to a bowl.
  7. Mixing on low, add the confectioner’s sugar, whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Icing should be glossy and pour easily.
  8. While the icing is still hot, spread one cup over the top of the bottom layer then add the top layer. Use the rest of the icing on the top and sides of the cake. It will set as it cools so work quickly and carefully.
  9. Enjoy your cake!

NYT Pecan Pie Brownies

I bring you to another one of my mail ready recipes! This was another one of the recipes that I tested out for mailing and according to the recipients, they made it through beautifully! I think the key to mail-able baked goods is both density and freezing! I made these twice because I made a few mistakes the first time. The second time that I made them was about a week before I mailed them and once they were cooled, I froze them in ziplock baggies until I was ready to ship them. Even from Baltimore, they only took two days to make it to the recipients on the West Coast which was fantastic! I was really excited to make these because they combine brownies and pecan pie, two of my favorite baked goods! I found these as a I was going through the New York Times Cooking website. I’ve featured a couple of their recipes now and I cannot stress how much I love their cooking section. In an effort to keep the New York Times alive, the cooking section was monetized and a subscription costs about $45 a year. If you’re able to pay, it is absolutely worth it. Some of their cooking recipes can be hard and unnecessarily complicated but I’ve found that the variety and quantity of recipes is unmatched. This specific recipe is from Melissa Clark, one of the many wonderful writers for the food section. These brownies took a little time to perfect but are a wonderful afternoon treat! As I’ll share below, the first time I made them was a little bumpy but I got the hang of it by the second time.

So what went wrong the first time that I made this? A couple things but the biggest issue was the pan size. This recipe calls for a 8 inch square pan, the typical brownie pan. However, the closest thing that I have to an 8 inch square pan is my 9 inch cake rounds. Instead of buying yet another pan, I decided to make the brownies in my rectangular cake pan (8 by 13) which caused them to burn pretty badly because I misjudged the baking time with the thinner layer of brownies in a larger pan. The second time, I used my nine inch cake rounds and cut the brownies into squares once they had cooled a little bit. I also didn’t bake as long on round two because I was worried about burning them. The original recipe said to bake up to 55 minutes for the topping to set. I only baked for fifty minutes and found the fudge-y texture of the brownies to be so yummy that I didn’t want to bake it any longer. Because I chose not to bake it as long, the pecans were liable to coming loose. So a bit of a trade-off but one that didn’t affect my brownies too much after I froze them. I also found the recipe to a be a little bitter both times I made it. The brownie batter itself is very sweet but the topping wasn’t. It may have been because I used whole milk rather than heavy cream in the topping and I think you may have better results if you add an additional tablespoon or two of light brown sugar. So let me know how it goes for you in the comments below and happy baking!

NYT Pecan Pie Brownies Recipe

For the Brownies

  • 115 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter,
  • 115 grams (4oz) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 250 grams (1 /4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130 grams (1 cup+ a lil more) all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 45 grams (1/4 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

For the Pecan Layer Topping

  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 60 milligrams (1/4 cup) honey
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used whole milk, if you do so, add another tablespoon of sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 200 grams (2 cups) toasted pecans halves, roughly chopped
  1. Heat an oven to 350F. Put the pecans onto a large sheet pan and roast for 8 minutes or until you can smell the nuts. Set on a rack and let cool.
  2. Once ready to bake, heat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8 inch square pan with two inches of excess parchment on each side to help lift out the brownies once they’re baked.
  3. To make the brownies, place the butter and chocolate into a medium pot and place on the stove over low heat. Melt, stirring constantly. Once melted, scrape into a large bowl and mix in the granulated sugar. Let sit until cool to the touch, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Once cooled, whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Mix in chips and scrape into the prepared pan. Smooth over the batter into an even layer and set aside.
  5. Make the pecan layer by whisking together the melted butter, honey, brown sugar, heavy cream, and fine sea salt. Fold in the pecans until well coated. Once mixed, pour pecan mixture in an even layer over the brownie batter.
  6. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt and bake until the top is set and firm to the touch, 45-55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into 16 squares.

No Roll Lemon Shortbread

These lemon shortbread cookies are great! It could be argued that they’re just a cookie lemon bar but I love them! As some people may know, my new quest is trying to figure out which of my recipes do well when mailed across the country. Some lucky readers will even get to taste these once they make their way through USPS. I wouldn’t count on the reliability of the post in the US at the moment but I’m always willing to try something new. According to the online news sources that I read, the best baked goods to ship across the country are dense and hardy. I can vouch for the density of the cookies, but I’ll have to ask the recipients about their hardiness! I’m hoping that they stand up to the test of the mail but we’ll see! Obviously, once I heard that I needed to make something dense, I HAD to look for new recipes rather than use the old favorites. If these do ship well, I may experiment with those too! So here’s hoping to a problem-free transport process!

These cookies are very easy shortbread cookies. They’re “press-in” shortbread which means that you select the tin of your choice and press the dough in; no rolling out needed! It’s a super simple recipe and I would recommend doing it with your little ones if you have any. In about fifteen minutes, I was able to go from prepping my ingredients to putting the dough into the oven. The recipe calls for using a nine inch square tin however I am somewhat limited by my kitchen storage space so I used my nine inch cake round instead! It worked out really well and like the nine inch square pans, you just need to be careful to distribute the dough evenly as you press it in. If you have any spots that are a lot thicker than the rest of the recipe, they won’t bake properly and will mean that the rest of the dough may burn while you’re waiting for that spot to cook. Again, this recipe is really easy so that’s probably the only part that you could mess up. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and happy baking!

No Roll Lemon Shortbread Recipe

  • 149 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon zest (roughly the zest of one or two lemons) I like mine really lemon-y so I just pour in the zest
  • 340 grams (3 sticks or 1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 390 grams (3 1/4 cup) All Purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9 inch pan with parchment paper. Don’t just butter or grease, it will prevent the cookies from baking, use paper or a silicone mat inside the tin if you have an appropriately sized one.
  2. Combine sugar and lemon zest with your fingers in a medium bowl. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until fragrant.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and lemon/sugar mixture. Once combined and fluffy, mix in the vanilla and salt.
  4. Add flour and mix until just combined. Will be thick.
  5. Press into an even layer in the prepared pan. Prick every inch or so (I forgot this step but try to if you can, it’ll help it to bake through)
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes, until just golden. Remove from the oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before cutting or serving.

Chocolate Sourdough Discard Rolls

As always, I was on a hunt to find new things to do with my sourdough discard and came across this recipe on my Instagram feed. This recipe is from @bakingwithgina, a home based baker from Singapore! Gina is lovely and I’ve been following her account for a couple months. Her recipes are always beautiful and absolutely mouthwatering! At first, I thought that her account only showed bread recipes that used active sourdough starter until I came across these rolls! I was overjoyed! The first time I made it, I followed her recipe exactly. It didn’t come out as nice as I wanted but my boyfriend enjoyed the whole loaf regardless! I prefer the rolls which are really yummy as sweet breakfast treats. I’m still looking for some sort of filling, maybe with candied orange peel or orange marmalade so that might be added to this page as I continue to experiment with this recipe.

My second time trying this recipe went much better! I added another third of a cup of flour and an egg. By enriching the dough, I made a more American bread, one that is sweeter and has a longer shelf life. As a college student, I usually can’t eat my baked goods within the week unless I give a few away first! So baking these as pull apart rolls made more sense for me. You can shape it into a traditional sandwich loaf and it will rise just as well. The first time I made this dough, I also didn’t realize that yeast should be added if your discard is a little old. I keep my discard in the refrigerator for up to three weeks because I think it stays good for that long. Scientifically, you should use it within three to five days according to King Arthur Flour so take my word with a grain of salt! Discard that is older can be added to almost any recipe to add flavor and just a tablespoon or two can go into most recipes without a problem. Lately, I’ve been using my discard for these rolls or for crumpets (hopefully a blog post will follow about that but I’ve been eating them before I can get a good picture!). Let me know if you have any favorite discard recipes that I haven’t yet featured on the blog and I’ll be sure to check them out! Happy baking!

Chocolate Sourdough Discard Roll Recipe

  • 200 grams (about 1 3/4 cup) sourdough discard
  • 100 grams whole milk
  • 290 grams bread flour
  • 30 grams sugar
  • 3 grams kosher salt
  • Pinch of yeast (about 1 teaspoon instant yeast) (This one depends on the age of your discard, it may need more or less depending on how long it has been sitting in the refrigerator
  • 30 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips (If you use bittersweet, add some sugar to balance the recipe out)
  • 40 grams whole milk
  • 20 grams cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  1. In a small bowl, melt the chips in the microwave in thirty second increments. Mine took about 1 min 30 seconds to melt fully but I still did it in increments to prevent burning the chocolate. Add the cocoa powder, 40 grams whole milk, and espresso powder and mix to form a paste. Set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together the discard, flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, egg, and the chocolate paste. Knead until smooth. The bread should spring back when touch and the dough should be brown throughout the whole dough, not just marbled in.
  3. Set in an oiled bowl and cover. Let rise 3 hours.
  4. Punch dough down and let rest 15 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough. I made rolls like my other sourdough discard rolls. I rolled all the dough into a log and used unflavored dental floss to cut it into ten. I arranged those on prepared 9 inch cake pans in a circle to make tear apart loaves. This can also be made into a loaf like regular bread.
  6. Cover and let prove 3-3 1/2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F. Once the dough has doubled and is puffy, bake for 25-30 minutes. If baking a loaf, you may need to bake 35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the tin and let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy some yummy bread!

The Ultimate Challah Recipe

I did it folks!!!! I found the challah of my dreams!! After multiple unsatisfactory attempts, I have found the perfect challah recipe. However, I didn’t do this on my own. After my previous attempts, I sent out a cry for help to my lovely friend Laura and she sent me the challah recipe from her family. So thank you Laura!! This challah recipe is absolute perfection. It creates beautiful, fluffy, and rich bread. One of these rolls was enough to satisfy my appetite! They are pretty simple to make, taking far less time to rise/prove than other recipes. I’ve changed one or two things like proving times within the recipe but otherwise credit goes to the original creator! Now let’s dive into a few technical parts to the bread before we get to the recipe.

This recipe calls for SEVEN egg yolks with an additional egg beaten for the egg wash before baking. Seven eggs is a LOT of eggs but even that number of eggs is not sufficient to make the dough the startling yellow that it is in store bought versions of challah. However, I discovered the dirty secret of commercial challah baking and it is simply food dye. Challah relies on egg yolks for its hallmark richness but the cost of eggs can add up for bakers. To cut down on costs, many commercial bakers use yellow food dye to get the yellow color that most associate with really rich challah. I was a little bummed when I learned this but it also made me set my sights on more realistic expectations for my challah. One issue with using seven egg yolks in a challah recipe is that you have to separate them all out. I would recommend doing the separation while the eggs are cold. Cold eggs have firmer yolks that are easier to separate. There are three methods to do this and I suggest trying all of them to find which one you’re most comfortable with. You should also use at least three bowls while you’re separating egg yolks, one for the current egg that you’re working with, another for the leftover egg whites, and a third for the yolks. Doing it this was makes more dishes but it’ll ensure that you don’t get any cross contamination between the whites and the yolks.

The first method is using your hand. This is a good technique to start with because it doesn’t require a ton of skill and gets you really familiar with the egg and its white. All you have to do is crack the egg over a bowl and put the yolk in the palm of your hand while you sort of jiggle the white into the bowl. The white will slide off and you’ll be left with your yolk. The second method uses the shells. Once you crack the egg (which you should do firmly to give the shells clean edges), you juggle the egg between the shells to get the white to slid off. I would recommend turning to youtube to see how this is done. The third method uses a clean and empty plastic, disposable water bottle. With this method, you crack the egg into a bowl and then use the opening of the empty water bottle to suction up the yolk and transfer it to another bowl. This can take some practice and time but it’s the most fun and cleanest of all the methods. Please save your egg whites once you’ve separated out your yolks. Egg whites will stay good in the refrigerator for three months and can be used in omelets or macarons or many other confections! However, egg yolks will only stay good in the refrigerator for three days and their quality will degrade with each passing day. So if you’re thinking of separating your yolks ahead of time, I beg you to reconsider! Also, I would always recommend having backup eggs around. Even the best pastry chef will puncture an egg yolk or two while separating eggs and it’s best to be prepared for this possibility!

My last few words are about braiding the challah strand. I really like to make knotted challah rolls but I have yet to perfect my knotting method. When I make large loaves, I usually do three or nine strand braids which are not terribly complicated. A three-strand braid is just like doing a regular hair braid while a nine strand braid consists of three separate three-strand braids that are braided together. There are lots of youtube videos on braiding so if you’re itching to get more complicated, the internet can provide guidance! At the moment for my rolls, I do a simple square knot and tuck the ends underneath my rolls. I’m trying to get more complicated but have had issues with the bread bursting through its shape while in its second prove. If anyone has a suggestion, put it in the comments below and I’d be happy to try it! Otherwise, just do what you want to do with the challah. It’s a very forgiving bread and will be tasty regardless of its final form as long as its baked through! Happy baking!

Challah Bread Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon instant or dry active yeast (If you’re really fancy, use SAF gold yeast, it’s for enriched breads like challah)
  • 227 grams (1 cup) warm water (75-95F)
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I’ve started using flaky kosher salt and have liked the results a lot!)
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil (I used sunflower oil and it also worked great so feel free to substitute!)
  • 1 large egg beaten with a tablespoon of water
  • Black sesame seeds or Demerara (raw) sugar
  1. Combine bread flour, yeast, egg yolks, sugar, salt, oil, and water together. Mix until the dough is almost cohesive then turn out of the bowl onto a kneading surface. Knead for up to five minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked with a floured finger.
  2. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover and let rest 1 1/2-2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
  3. Punch down the dough. Divide into three or nine if you’re making a three or nine strand loaf. For large rolls, divide dough into 10. For smaller rolls divide into 15 or weigh out 45 gram pieces of dough. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
  4. Once rested, roll dough out with your hands to 12-24 inch strands. For smaller rolls, 12 inches is sufficient but for other braids, 24 inches is needed. Don’t force the dough to stretch, it will shrink back once left alone so decide on the length as you roll out each piece of dough. Shape the dough and place it on the baking sheet where it will be baked.
  5. Once shaped, let rest 1 hour for its final prove.
  6. During its final prove, preheat over to 375F for loaves and 400F for rolls. Prepare the egg wash by beating together an egg and some water to thin out the consistency. Before baking, brush the rolls all over with the egg wash and sprinkle on topping of choice like black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, or Demerara sugar.
  7. Bake. Baking time will vary on the loaf or roll type. Loaves will bake 35-45 minutes and if extremely large, may take 50 minutes and you may need to cover with foil to prevent it burning. Large rolls will take 15-20 minutes to bake while smaller rolls will bake 10-13 minutes. To check for doneness, remove the bread from the oven and roll onto its top. Knock the bottom of the roll or loaf. If you hear a hollow sound, it is done. If no hollow sound is heard, put back into the oven for another five minutes.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

A Post on Challah

I’ve recently become fixated on Challah and this post will contain some pointers and tricks but no actual recipe. I’m still working on finding my favorite challah recipe, I’ve tried two within the past week but I haven’t yet found one with the “egg-y” quality that I adore in challah. My ideal loaf of challah is lightly sweetened but with so many eggs inside that the dough itself is yellow and the crust is hard and beautifully browned. So far, I’ve been able to achieve beautiful puffiness with my challah dough but not that egg-y quality that I want. In my quest for the perfect challah, I’ve tried a recipe from a Le Pain Quotidian cooking class that I took several years ago and one from King Arthur Flour. Next on my list is the “Perfect Challah” recipe from the New York Times and I will let you all know how that one goes! As a baker, I often become fixated on one specific recipe for several days until I believe I have perfected it! One of the most memorable recent occasions of this was my obsession with quiche where I got up at four in the morning to re-do my quiche recipe multiple times. I just have a tendency to want to find ~the recipe~ for something, a recipe that I can count on always. During the semester, I got hung up on baguettes which I’ve made both in Baltimore and home in California to varying degrees of success. I’m still working on that but I took a break to focus on enriched breads which I find are easier to make in a pinch.

Challah is my favorite enriched dough and the only one that I make on a semi-regular basis. Its “enriched” qualities come from the use of oil and eggs as the fat that the yeast feeds on. The dough itself is very light and fluffy and the crust is browned but still soft and often covered with sesame seeds. Challah doesn’t require any special baking equipment, I usually bake mine on two cookie sheets in my oven. Its crust doesn’t need any additional steam and you can use whatever toppings you have on hand. When making challah, I try to have all the ingredients at room temperature. Any dough needs to reach a certain internal temperature before it will start the process of rising and fermenting. However, the internal temperature is especially important for enriched dough because the fats weigh down the dough making a big rise harder to achieve. I also use lukewarm water, around 90F, when making the dough to help with the internal temperature. Looking from the outside, the braiding of challah bread looks incredibly complicated but I’ve found the braiding process soothing and easier than expected. A three or four strand braid is pretty common for challah bread and I usually go with a three or a nine strand braid. For braiding, I handle the dough just like my hair. Actually, for dads trying to learn how to braid, challah dough might provide a good place to practice the more complicated plaits before trying it on your daughter’s head. King Arthur Flour has some great youtube videos on the most basic braids and like any part of baking, your braids will improve with practice. Let me know if you enjoyed this more technical type of post in the comments below. I can’t wait to share my final challah recipe with everyone and until then, Happy Baking!

Bulla Cookies

I love the holidays, covid or not, because of all the baking! I absolutely adore having a seasonal reason to bake and there’s nothing that cheers me up more than some lovely Christmas cookies. I always make a ton of cookies from different recipes around the holidays and these are the results of my latest experiment! I’m so lucky that this recipe worked out, it’s from the Wall Street Journal and I have NOT had good luck with some of their recipes. This past year, I’ve had a hard time with snicker-doodles and these were a perfect recipe for someone who regularly messes up the more delicate snickerdoodle. I love the spices mixed into the dough for snicker-doodles and this recipe provides the same spices with a bit more of a punch. The article that I got the recipe from described them as Jamaican snicker-doodles but I would describe them more like gingerbread snicker-doodles. They’re hardier cookies and the article recommended shipping these out to relatives as they would hold up better in the shipping process. I would have shipped some out had any made it out of my kitchen! They were so delicious that my family and I ate them all up within the week. I’m excited to make this recipe for many years to come, it’s amazing!

This recipe makes about twenty four cookies and the original recipe recommended doing 3 ounce dough balls for the cookies. I halved that amount to about 1.5 ounces per cookie and found that the smaller size works better for me. 3 ounce cookies would have been too big for my family and I but it may be just the right size for some! The true star of the recipe is the spices but we cannot neglect the hidden hero, cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is a byproduct from wine-making and it’s a chalky powder that winemakers will scrape from their barrels after they’ve removed the wine. Cream of tartar acts as an acid, balancing out the spreading tendency of the sugar and butter, and keeps the cookie together in the baking process. If a recipe calls for cream of tartar, if you don’t have any, go get some. It’s not worth it to try and substitute another acid like lemon juice, it just doesn’t work right. I am speaking from personal experience because I attempted to substitute lemon juice in several batches of snicker-doodles and they spread horrifically. I had to scrape the cookies off the baking tray and was very distraught. But we all fail during baking and I’m taking advantage of this never ending year to try and branch out in my baking despite the potential for failure. So I hope that you have some cream of tartar at home and can make these cookies for yourself and your family this holiday season! Happy baking!

Bulla Cookie Recipe

For the Dough

  • 330 grams (2 3/4 cup) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 297 grams (1 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 54 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar (if using cups, pack the sugar down)
  • 2 large eggs

For the Sugar Topping

  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove

To make the dough, first combine the dry ingredients (from flour down to ground pepper). Mix well with a fork.

  1. Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes in a mixer and longer by hand. Scrape the bowl and mix again for less than a minute. Beat in eggs one at a time until mixed completely. 
  2. Add in dry ingredients in one or two additions to the butter/sugar mix. Mix on low until just incorporated, try not to over mix. 
  3. Scoop out dough, about 1.5 oz each, and roll into a ball. Grease several containers and place the dough inside. Cover and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours, ideally chilling overnight. The dough can also be frozen at this stage as well and it keeps for 3 months in the freezer.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 and make the sugar topping by combining all the ingredients. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  5. Roll cookies in sugar topping and make sure they are completely coated. Place on sheets with at least 2 or 3 inches in between cookies and bake 10-14 minutes. (If your oven runs cold, bake 14 minutes) If baking from frozen, bake an additional 2-3 minutes but be sure to watch the cookies to prevent them burning.
  6. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack and enjoy! They stay good for 5 days in a airtight container.