Za’atar Bread

I had never heard of za’atar until I went to culinary school and a classmate of mine from Israel brought in a little packet of homemade za’atar to share with me. It contained sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, hyssop and a little salt, it instantly became one of my favorite spice blends. The first time I had za’atar bread was from a vendor at a farmers market. He was from Palestine and owned a local restaurant and was selling homemade za’atar, as well as this huge pile of soft flatbread with a generous topping of za’atar and olive oil baked onto the bread. Yet again, I became an instant fan. The word za’atar means thyme in Arabic, as well as referring to a general family of herbs such as thyme, hyssop, marjoram and oregano, among others. A popular spice blend in the Middle East, there are slight variations to the spice combo depending on the region.

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Sourdough Discard Cornbread

Last year we tackled sourdough on the blog with a post all about how to make and take care of a starter, as well as a basic sourdough loaf.  Now the thing about sourdough starter is that you have to deal with something called discard.  Basically, in order for a wild yeast starter to stay active and at peak leavening capability, it needs to be fed consistently.  Since I don’t bake with my starter all the time, it is usually being stored in the fridge, which slows it down and requires less frequent feedings.  However, when I am ready to bake with it, there is a 2-4 four day process of feeding it several times a day to get it back to being active enough to leaven loaves of bread.  Each of those feedings requires me to dump off a portion so I don’t end up with a gallon of starter.  That is why you dump part of it.  Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because if you didn’t, then you’d quickly have way more starter than you could ever need.  But, instead of just throwing away the discard, it can be added to other baked goods.  While it will need help with leaven, it will still impart that wonderfully tangy sourdough flavor.

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Spiced Stout Cupcakes with Malted Cream Cheese Frosting

I live in a college town and that means when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around everywhere you look there are pub runs, pub crawls, and bars opening ridiculously early (like I’m still sleeping early).  I’m not sure how a religious feast day celebrating Ireland’s patron saint turned into a day of drinking massive amounts of beer and wearing green; but I’ll happily raise a pint to anyone who can drive snakes out of a country!  Yes, I know that is actually a myth.  While I do love a good beer, I also really enjoy baking with beer.  I have been loving a spiced stout produced by a local brewery, 7 Sisters Brewing, and I decided to make a St. Patrick’s Day worthy dessert out of it.  Unlike a regular stout such as Guinness, a spiced stout is like a grown-up version of root beer, full of delicious spice and a touch of sweetness.

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