baking Tartine bread

I've been baking from the Tartine Bread cookbook.  It's an involved process, but the bread is the best I've ever made.  I've always wondered how artisan bread has the blistery, shiny crust and airy, holey interior, and this book has demystified that.  It explains creating your own starter (yeast culture), and fermenting and rising the dough, giving it "turns" every half an hour.  No kneading involved.  Baking is done in a cast iron dutch oven with a lid for the first half of the bake, which seals in the moisture.
My main difficulty is getting my loaf to rise high.  It usually deflates quite a bit when I drop it in the dutch over after the final rise.  It stuck to the towel the first time, which flattened it significantly as I pulled it off.  Since then I've made sure to heavily flour the towel.  The recipe makes two loaves, and I usually just leave then other other half of the dough in the frig for pizza crust or to bake a more sour loaf days later.  I also condensed the long master recipe onto a small sheet of paper that was much less annoying to reference during the process.   

Check out my friend Andrew's blog: Secret Restaurant Portland, who first showed me this book.

my most recent and best attempt!   making the two loves at once was interesting, as you can really get a sense of how the shaping and scoring affects the final loaf.  these two had the airiest texture of any i've made.

attempt #3-  this dough sat in the refrigorator for several days and was wetter and more sour

stinging nettles are edible!!

These are foraged stinging nettles.  I was surprised to hear that stinging nettles are edible.  I remember hiking once on a trail overgrown with them and getting red welts all over my legs.  A minute boil in water deactivates the stingers.  I hesitantly tried one after pulling it from the boiling water and got no stings.  They taste like spinach but much stronger.  very delicious!  After our harvest last weekend my boyfriend and I made marinara sauce and pesto.  Spring is the best time of year for foraging nettles because the leaves are young.  Wear thick gloves and cut only the tops of the plants.


marinara with nettles

pesto with nettles, cooked and chopped nettles bottom left


almond milk & mung bean sprouts

More cool and easy things to do in mason jars:

I use a 1/2 Gallon mason jar for almond milk.  Soak 1C of raw, unsalted, whole almonds overnight in a 1/4 gal water and in the morning pour it all in the blender and blend on high for 5-10 minutes.  Line a colander with cheesecloth, put it in a large bowl, and pour out the contents of the blender.  Wait for the liquid to drain out and squeeze any remaining milk out of the cheesecloth.  The strained almonds bits are great in oatmeal.  Pour it back into the mason jar and fill the rest of the way with water.  I usually add some sugar or honey.  Will keep refrigerated for a week.

You can find mung bean sprouts in the bulk section of natural food stores.  These are great raw on salads and sandwiches and in stir fry.  Add beans to the mason jar and fill water 1/2" from the top of the beans.  Let sit at room temp for several days covered and change the water 2 or 3 times a day.  Refrigerate when the root tails are 1/4" long.

refrigerator pickles & wilty greens

I've been making refrigerator pickles.  It's super easy.  For this jar I sliced 4 or 5 pickling cucumbers thin with my salad shooter along with some red onions (which later turned everything pink) and then added some red chili flakes and garlic.  I put a tablespoon or two of pickling salt in the mason jar and added all the chopped vegetables.  I poured in white vinegar till it covered everything, screwed on this lid, put in the frig, and in four days they were good to eat. 

I do this sometimes when I'm out of frig space.
Trim 1/2" off the stems and put in water like you would with flowers. Wilty greens will perk up in water.


date walnut snack bars

these always go fast ...

I started making these delicious energy bars a year ago.  They are way tastier and cheaper than any of the store bought kinds.  All you need is a food processor with a sharp blade, 1 C dates, 1 C walnuts, 1 t vanilla extract, 1 or 2 t cinnamon.  Put in processor and blend till nut particles are fairly small.  Remove mix from food processor and on a flat, clean surface press into a circle about 1- 1.5" thick.  Cut into wedges, and store in an airtight container.  I have not found it necessary to refrigerate these.  Great camping  food! 

Walnuts are the easiest to make these with because they're softer.  I used almonds in the ones above and the nuts are a bit chunkier than usual.  Almonds are harder nuts and they require a very sharp blade to process well.  I have also used cashews, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, and cardamom which are tasty additions as well.