Chocolate Sourdough Babka

This is another gorgeous bread that I was dying to try making. I’ll be honest, my first one of these did not turn out well. I must have done something wrong in making the chocolate paste, because it was very crumbly and didn’t get the pretty swirled effect this bread is supposed to have. Babka is another shaped, braided bread – but with a “twist”.

In my post about my Sourdough Challah (here), I talked about leavening using a levain. This bread also uses a levain, but with sugar added, and also uses a Tangzhong.

What is a Tangzhong? Glad you asked.

Tangzhong is an Asian technique that results in softer, more tender rolls, bread, or cakes. It is a method of combining a small amount of water or milk and flour briefly over heat into a roux and then adding this to your other ingredients for the bread.

The method pre-gelatinizes the starches in your flour, which then helps it absorb more water. This results in a less sticky dough that is therefore easier to handle. It also means that your dough will rise higher and last longer in your pantry.

This is a 2 day bread – similar to the challah recipe linked above but is really considered a brioche (coming soon).


Sweet Levain

  • 5 grams sugar
  • 15 grams active sourdough starter
  • 30 grams cold milk (whole or 2%)
  • 40 grams all-purpose flour


  • 80 grams milk (whole or 2%)
  • 20 grams all-purpose flour

Main Dough

  • 320 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 100 grams of eggs (approx. 2 medium eggs)
  • 110 – 130 grams of cold milk (whole or 2%)
  • 6 grams of fine sea salt (or 8 grams of coarse kosher)
  • 65 grams of softened unsalted butter

Dark Chocolate Filling

  • 200 grams of dark or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 115 grams of unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Dutch process but any will do)
  • pinch of salt


  • 40 grams of water
  • 40 grams of sugar


Day One – In the morning

For the Sweet Levain – combine all the ingredients into a small bowl and place in a warm spot for 8 – 10 hours until it has doubled or more in size.

Day One – In the evening

Make the Tangzhong – add the flour and milk to a small pot and heat over medium heat, while whisking. Cook until the mixture has thickened and temp reads about 150 degrees.

Transfer the Tangzhong to a plate or bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the mixture. This will keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature before continuing to the main dough.

For the Main Dough – to the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, eggs, milk, all the levain and all the tangzhong. Mix just until combined. Rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.

Add the salt and knead at medium speed using your dough hook for 5 – 10 minutes.

Slowly add the cubed butter, while mixing, one cube at a time. Let each cube incorporate into the dough before adding the next. Once all the butter is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and then knead at medium speed until the dough passes the window pane test. (See the challah recipe linked above for an explanation of this.) This can take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes depending on your mixer.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and proof at room temp for 2 hours. Then transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cold proof overnight.

Day Two

Making the Chocolate Filling – Start the filling about 30 minutes before you plan to take the Main Dough out of the fridge.

In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir until it’s fully melted. Add the cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Stir until smooth.

Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 – 10 minutes. If you don’t give it a stir periodically, it will harden up on you. You want it to be a paste you can spread.

Take the filling and dough out of the fridge at the same time. Give the filling a stir.

To Shape your dough – Place the dough on a floured work surface. Roll it out to a square about 13×13 inches. Evenly spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on all sides.

Roll up the square like a roulade. Push in the seams and gently shape to even it out. Then transfer it to a parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate/rest for at least 20 minutes.

Butter your bread tin while the dough rests.

Remove the dough from the fridge and with a heavily floured and very sharp knife, cut the roulade in half lengthwise.

With the cut sides facing up, cross one side over the other to form an X with the sides. Then braid the top, crossing one side over the other, until you get to the end. Repeat with the bottom. Mine usually is just one more crisscross on the top and bottom each.

Tuck the ends in an under gently. Transfer to your prepared bread pan. Cover the pan and let proof again for 6 – 8 hours or until the dough has risen to fill up at least 80% of the tin.

To Bake – Preheat your oven to 390 degrees. Bake the babka for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Bake until it reaches at least 203 degrees internally.

Make the syrup – while the babka is in the oven, make the syrup. In a small pot, heat the water and sugar together, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Take off the heat and let it cool.

When the babka is out of the oven immediately brush or pour over the syrup. Then leave it in the bread pan until it’s cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire wrack to finish cooling.

Slice and eat.

“With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.”

Russian Proverb

New England Clam Chowder and Cheesy Jalapeno Bread

Tonight’s dinner was pure comfort food. I made this clam chowder for the first time last summer and it was an instant favorite. It’s a fairly quick soup to put together, using canned clams and clam juice.

Add the cheesy jalapeno bread and it’s flat out amazing. The bread is perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The flavor from the cheese and the peppers goes so well with the chowder.

This bread is excellent with many meals. I particularly like it with barbeque of any type, any creamy soup, and grilled meats. The recipe is not a sourdough based bread, but I usually substitute in some of my starter, which gives it a hint of that sour flavor and adds a bit more rise. It is a yeast bread mainly, though. I will outline below the main recipe and how to sub in your sourdough discard if desired. It turns out great either way.

You can make and eat either of these things without the other. Or pair them with different meals. But my favorite is to have them both together.

New England Clam Chowder


  • Two 6.5 oz. cans of whole baby clams
  • 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
  • 6 strips of bacon, chopped (or pancetta cubed)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsps chicken bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tsps dried herbs of choice (oregano, dill, thyme, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp crush red pepper flake
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream


Open the canned clam and drain the juice into a measuring cup. Add enough of the bottled clam juice to equal 2 1/2 cups of juice. Set aside the clams.

In a Dutch oven, cook the bacon or pancetta over medium heat until crispy and fat is rendered. Remove about half the bacon and set it aside on paper towels to drain. You will use this later as a topping for the chowder. To the remaining bacon, add the tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and celery. Saute for 5 – 7 minutes until the onion is soft. Then add the potatoes and garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook for another minute.

Add the chicken stock and clam juice to the pot. Bring to a boil while stirring to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the bay leaves, bouillon and all the seasonings to the pot. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the heavy cream and clams. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Keep over very low heat until ready to eat.

Cheesy Jalapeno Bread


  • 600 grams (about 4 cups) All-Purpose flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 tbsp pickled jalapeno rings (roughly chopped and drained on a paper towl)
  • 2 cups finely shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, colby jack, etc. )

Note: If substituting in some sourdough starter – you’ll need 1/4 cup sourdough starter discard and will reduce the flour to 3 3/4 cup and the water to 1 3/4 cups.


In a small bowl, add the lukewarm water and then lightly mix in the yeast. Let the yeast “bloom” for about 5 minutes. It will get slightly foamy on top of the bowl.

In a second bowl, add all the dry ingredients (not the peppers or cheese.) Make a shallow well in the ingredients and when the yeast mixture is foamy pour it in.

Note: If using the starter, add it to the dry ingredients at the same time as the yeast and water mixture.

Mix by hand or with a spoon until the dough comes together. If it seems a little dry – add a touch more water. If it’s too wet – add a bit of flour. Either way, just add a tiny bit at a time, if needed. The dough should be soft, but not super sticky.

Once the dough comes together, cover the bowl and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The dough should double in size. If the dough is ready at this point, it will dent and then slowly deflate when you poke it a few times with your finger (gently, but firmly).

Gently scoop up the dough and unstick it from the sides and bottom of the bowl. Fold in the jalapenos. Then place the dough back in the bowl, cover and allow to rise again for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Uncover the dough, transfer to a floured sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Shape the dough into a ball. Quickly fold in the cheese. Then cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While it rests, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When hot, add your Dutch oven so that it gets screaming hot.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven, and place the loaf with the parchment into the pot. Cover with the lid and return to the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes covered. Then another 10 minutes uncovered until the bread is brown on top and reads about 200 degrees internally.

Let cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing. Now is also a great time to take photos or videos for Instagram. Have you ever listened to a loaf of fresh baked bread? Try now. (Click here.)

“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king.” 

Louis Bromfield

Low and Slow Braised Short Ribs

This is one of my all-time favorite meals to make. It is easy to put together, but delicious and impressive enough to serve to guests. The short-ribs are relatively inexpensive, as well, so it’s good for feeding a crowd on a budget. This same dish can be made using lamb shanks, as well. I dub this a low and slow recipe, but don’t worry that it takes a super long time. You can put it together quickly and then just pop in the oven for a couple of hours. Longer is better, but not strictly necessary. You could also do this in your crock pot if you need to leave it for the day!


  • 3 – 4 lbs Beef Short Ribs (bone in)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Enough flour to dredge the ribs (1/4 cup or so)
  • Pancetta or bacon, about half cup, cubed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (I also like shallots in this)
  • 2 whole carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine (or white if you can’t do red, you can also skip this entirely and use more stock)
  • 2 cups of stock – beef preferably, but chicken is also fine
  • 3 – 4 fresh sprigs of herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano


Salt and pepper your ribs on all sides. Then dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess, and set aside.

In a large dutch oven, add a dash of olive oil and then the pancetta or bacon. Cook over medium heat till crispy and the fat has rendered. Remove the pancetta and set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Add the short ribs, a few at a time, to the pot and brown on all sides. Remove and add as they finish browning. Do not over crowd your pot.

When the ribs are all browned and set aside, add a bit more olive oil to the pot and then add the carrots, onion, shallot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, being careful not to burn it.

Add the wine to the pot and deglaze the bottom, scraping up all the good bits. Bring to a boil and cook till reduced by about half. Then add the beef or chicken stock and return to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the ribs to the liquid – they should be almost completely submerged. Throw the whole springs of herbs and that pancetta you set aside into the pot (don’t mix it in, just leave them floating on top).

Put the lid on the dutch oven and place into a 300 degree oven. Let cook slowly for the next 2 hours. At the 2 hour mark, the ribs should be tender and falling off the bones. If not, let them go another hour.

Remove from the oven when done and let sit for 20 minutes. Just before serving, skim some of the risen fat off the top of the liquid. Or, if preferred, at this point you can let the ribs cool completely, then place the pot in the refrigerator. The next day, remove all the fat that will have collected and solidified on the top of the liquid before slowly reheating the ribs on low heat on the stove top.

Serve the ribs and juices over mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.

The smells of slow cooking spread around the house and impart a unique warmth matched only by the flavour of the food.

Yotam Ottolenghi

Sourdough Challah

This has become one of my favorite sourdough recipes. I love the texture and flavor of the challah and it’s also just SO pretty.

The enriched doughs tend to be much softer than a sourdough that only has water, flour and salt. Enriched can mean all kinds of things: egg, butter, milk, sugar, honey, oil, etc. In this case the dough has oil, egg and honey which creates a very soft, slightly sweet bread, that’s super fun to work with.

The recipe also uses a levain to start. A levain is basically an offshoot of your starter, with some of the ripe starter, and fresh flour and water. A levain is used entirely in one recipe. It provides the leavening factor and also much of the flavor due to the fermentation.


For the Levain:

  • 35 grams active sourdough starter
  • 35 grams room temp water
  • 35 grams all-purpose white flour (or bread flour)

Main Dough:

  • 185 grams room temp water
  • 100 grams levain
  • 100 grams eggs (approx. 2 medium eggs)
  • 40 grams honey
  • 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour
  • 40 grams oil (I used light olive oil)
  • 10 grams salt
  • More honey for brushing
  • Poppy seeds (you can also use sesame or seed mix, but I prefer the poppy seeds)


Start your levain. Add the starter, water and flour to a bowl and mix to combine. The cover and let rest in warm spot for four hours or until doubled in size.

When the levain is ready, combine the water, honey, eggs and levain in the bowl of your stand mixer. Then add the flour. Mix using the dough hook for about 2 minutes until the dough comes together. Then cover the bowl and rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.

Turn on the mixer and add the salt. Then add about 1/4 of the oil. Knead for two minutes until the oil is mixed in, then add another 1/4 of the oil and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Repeat until all the oil has been added. Be patient here and just add a little at a time until it’s all mixed in.

Once all the oil is added, continue to knead on low-medium speed for 5 – 10 more minutes until the dough passes the window-pane test. (This means that when you stretch a portion of the dough gently it should stretch thin, but not tear.)

Once the dough reaches this stage, lightly oil a large bowl, transfer the dough into the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl and let rise for five hours.

At this point you will transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cold-proof for 10 – 15 hours or overnight.

The next day you will shape the strands to form the challah loaf.

Take the dough from the fridge and dump it onto your work surface. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each one into a seamless ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Using your rolling pin, roll each round out into a rectangle about 8 inches long. Then roll into a log from the long ends. Repeat on all 6 rounds. Then using your hands to roll and extend the logs until they are about 16 – 18 inches long. If at any point the dough resists and is springing back, let that strand rest, work with another one and move on through all the 6 strands like that. Once all are rolled out long, lightly flour your surface and the strands (if they are a bit sticky) and then arrange them side by side. Group them together at the top and pinch together/tuck under slightly to fasten.

Now for the braiding. Braid them a bit loose so the challah will have room to rise.

  1. Move the outside right strand over two strands
  2. Move the second strand from the left all the way right
  3. Move the outside left strand over two strands
  4. Move the second strand from the right all the way left
  5. Start over with the outside right strand
  6. Continue all the way down your strands

Tuck the pinch the ends to close up your loaf of challah.

Now transfer the loaf to a lined baking sheet (parchment paper or silicone mat).

Cover and let rise for 4 – 6 hours or until puffed up and jiggly when you shake the tray.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Gently brush the top of the challah with honey and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes, until golden brown and an internal temp of about 95 degrees. Cover with foil if it is browning too quickly. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

The challah is delicious on its own, toasted with cream cheese or butter, made into french toast, or along side a savory stew. Enjoy!

“There will be days when we feel fully risen and expansive and up to facing life’s most difficult challenges, and we will gaze at our lovely fat challahs with pride. There will also be days when we may feel deeply deflated and incapable, and the slightly lop-sided challahs cooling on the counter may be more reflective of that state of mind. Through all the risings and the fallings, through the knowledge that we are good enough to nurture, exactly as we are, will help us appreciate the yield of our efforts and recognize the loveliness in all its imperfection.” 
― Rochie Pinson, Rising: The Book of Challah

Sourdough Almond Poppyseed Muffins

For many years, anytime my mom and I were prepping for a beach trip, we would make sure we got the Almond Poppyseed Muffins from Kroger. If you split them in half, toast them and then smother with butter or cream cheese, they were just perfect with your coffee on the porch at 3rd Avenue South in Surfside, SC.

I haven’t been able to find these in a long time. For some reason everyone seems to have decided that poppyseeds can only be combined with lemon. And while that might be fine, it’s not what I want with my coffee.

I finally found some good quality almond extract (Nielsen-Massey) and decided to try making these myself. The recipe below is a basic sourdough muffin recipe, that can be modified with any add-ins you like! I’ve made this recipe with chocolate chips and dried cherries, with just cinnamon and nutmeg, and with dried blueberries. Mix it up with your own favorites!

You can make this either with feed starter or with discard. Either way seems to yield the same result.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg (room temp)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard

Almond Poppyseed

  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 – 3 tbsp poppyseeds

Cinnamon – Nutmeg

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Chocolate – Berry

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried berries


Preheat oven to 425. Line your muffin tin with liners or spray with nonstick spray. (This will make 10-12 small muffins or 6 large.)

In a large bowl mix your dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon/nutmeg or poppyseeds.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: egg, milk, starter, vanilla and/or almond extract.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just combined. If using dried fruit or chocolate chips, mix them in now.

Divide batter evenly between your muffin cups – each one should be about 3/4 of the way full.

For the poppyseed muffins, I then added a sprinkle of poppyseeds and a pinch of Demerara or Turbinado sugar to the top before baking.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 5 – 7 minutes until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Note: if you are using the large muffin cups, initial bake will be closer to 12 minutes and then 8 – 10 for the reduced heat bake.

These will come out of the oven moist and soft with just the right amount of crumble.

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.

M.F.K. Fischer

Sourdough Starter and My Favorite Discard Recipe

As many of us did, I started my sourdough journey in 2020 during lock-down. I had always wanted to try it, but didn’t feel like I had the time to commit to the trial and error of it as I learned the tecniques. Well, that wasn’t really an excuse anymore, now was it?

Start your Starter

Of coure, the first thing, long before you can actually start baking, is the starter.

Starter is bascially a combination of flour and water, and all the natural little yeasties that already live in your kitchen. You let them all mix together for a while until they are strong and happy little yeasties in your starter jar, so that they bubble (burb and fart, lets be honest) and create that leavening effect that will make your bread rise. All the while, the mixture is also fermenting, which gives you that glorious sour flavor!

You can start any number of ways: buy a pre-made mix from Amazon (I recommend San Francisco Sourdough), get some gifted to you from a friend who has a strong, healthy starter, or start from scratch. Starting from scratch with just water and flour will take the longest before you can bake with it, but otherwise it’s really up to you and your preference. You will also want some clean, glass containers (Weck jars are awesome!) and access to filtered water (not distilled).

I frequently “gift” batches of my starter to friends and family, with some quick tips written on a recipe card to get them started with their starter. Here are those tips.

Day 1 – Move the gifted starter to a larger glass container. Feed with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose white flour and 2 tablespoons of filtered, room-temperature water. Cover loosely (paper towel, coffee filter or some Weck jars come with a nifty cork lid that’s perfect.) Let sit on the countertop or in your pantry for 24 hours.

Day 2 – Feed, Cover and Wait as above

Day 3 – Feed your starter with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water. Cover, rest another 24 hours.

By this point you are hopefully seeing it bubble and get active a few hours after feeding. If not, don’t worry – it’s still adjusting to your environment. Colder homes will take longer before the starter activates and gets happy. If your house is too cold, you can put the starter into your oven with the light on. BUT DO NOT FORGET IT’S THERE AND TURN ON THE OVEN!

Day 4 – Discard 1/4 cup of starter and feed with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water.

You will continue with this process FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Feed, Discard, Feed, Discard.

The sole purpose of the discard is to keep the sourdough starter from getting bigger and bigger until it takes over your kitchen and your life.

After one week – Your starter should be about ready to use in a bread recipe. But if you aren’t seeing strong bubbles and rising in your jar yet – just keep going. It will happen.

Do I Have to Discard?

Well, as I mentioned, it’s really just to keep your starter to a more manageable volume, because you need to be feeding it an equal amount of flour and water to the amount of starter in your jar. Otherwise, it gets hungry and unhealthy. But the discard is perfectly useable and delicious in a lot of recipes. I rarely actually throw any out!

  1. Gift it to a friend who wants to try making their own sourdough!
  2. Start a second starter – this is great if you want to try different types of flours but don’t want to change your “main” starter.
  3. MAKE CRACKERS!!! (Stay tuned for recipe!)
  4. Make literally anything baked, just sub in the starter for the same amount of flour and water in the recipe. For instance if you have 1/4 cup of starter to use, take 1/4 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of water out of the recipe and replace it with the starter!

Tips and Tools

Buy an inexpensive kitchen scale. A lot of sourdough receipes are measured by weight, not by volume, and it’s way more precise.

Skip the baneton baskets and just get some good, tightly woven kitchen towels and use your mixing bowls.

Get a digital “candy” thermometer. I even use this to make sure my water is “room temp” before feeding my starter.

I do like using the razors to score rather than just a knife, but haven’t actually found a lame I like yet. Let me know if you have a good one!

Splurge item – I bought a terracotta dutch oven and it has been a game changer for the traditional “boule” style loaves. It creates steam without having to throw ice cubes into my 475 degree oven!

If your starter gets a layer of liquid on the top and starts to smell a bit vinegar-y, don’t panic! It’s not ruined. It does mean it’s underfed – up your feeding amounts and all will be well. If you like the strong sour flavor in your sourdoughs, just mix that “hooch” right back into your starter. If you DON’T – pour it off before you feed.

If your starter has a thin bit of ‘crust’ on the top – it’s also ok. Probably means you left it unfed a little longer than usual. No biggie. I usually scrape that off and throw it away before I feed my starter.

If you see MOLD – then you have my condolences. Throw it out and start over.

Need to go on vacation for a week and don’t want to have to hire a sourdough starter sitter*? No problem! Before you go out of town, give it a last feeding. Then cover tightly and put it in the refrigerator. It will go dormant while you’re at the beach. When you get home, take it out, let it come to room temp and then just start feeding it again. Those little buggers will wake right up.

*BTW I am available for that job if anyone wants to hire me

Lastly – your starter doesn’t like soap. Definitely clean your jar periodically, maybe once a week, but make sure it’s very clean and clear of all soap residue before you put your starter in. I have 2 or 3 of the Weck jars and just rotate them. Don’t change it too often! Remember you are cultivating good bacteria!

Sourdough Discard Herb, Garlic Crackers


  • 200 grams (about 1 cup) sourdough discard
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I like to use my garlic herb infused oil here)
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


Mix all the ingredients together. Knead into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Cut dough in half and put one half back in the fridge.

Cut the remaining half again into 4 pieces.

Flour your surface lightly. Roll out each piece as thin as you can into a rough rectangle – this does not have to be perfect! Put two of the pieces on each baking sheet – not overlapping.

Brush each piece lightly with water and then sprinkle with salt (I like the Maldon Flake Sea Salt here).

Bake for 7.5 minutes. Then rotate your pans and bake for another 7.5 to 8 minutes or until the crackers are lightly golden brown and getting crispy.

Cool on a wire wrack. Repeat with the remaining dough.

I hope you enjoy the crackers and the overall sourdough experience! More recipes and bread photos coming soon!

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.

James Beard

A “Get to the Recipe” Post

I saw a post a long time ago where the writer was lamenting a bad day when he spent hours making a gorgeous chicken stock and then promptly strained the whole pot of it right down the sink.



Gut wrenching.

It haunts me.

Yesterday, I made stock. As you know, it takes hours to do it right. Not slave over the pot non-stop hours, but a good amount of prep, then simmering, then stripping the chicken meat from the bones, simmering some more, and then straining the stock. It’s a real labor of love.

I put about 3 quarts of stock in the freezer last night and the remaining quart in a bowl in the fridge overnight to use for soup today.

After breakfast this morning, I was prepping to start the soup. Chopped up the veggies and such. Went to get the bowl of stock from the refrigerator and dropped the whole thing on the floor.

Dropped. A. Whole. Quart. Of. Stock. On. The. Floor.

I still can’t believe it happened. I stared at it. I cried. I had to wash my clothes, the rug, and several towels. The dogs enjoyed it.




It’s almost recipe time…

Second half of the tale: “BUT COULD YOU ADD PEPPERS TO IT?“

After some time I went ahead with soup making. Nothing more comforting than a nice big pot of soup. And boy did I need it!

I made a pretty basic chicken, potato, corn soup. Onion, garlic, celery, carrot. Let it simmer for a couple of hours. The whole house smelled amazing. Then my dear husband tasted it. Yummy noises. I noted that he’d probably still want to add hot sauce and he replied, “but … couldn’t you add some jalapenos to it?”.

Thinking aloud, I said “Well, I wouldn’t really do that unless it was, like, a chowder. But I could make this into a corn chowder of sorts with just adding a few things. The other ingredients are mostly the same.” I look over at him the to see this: 😳😲😋🤤


And that’s how I spent the next 15 minutes turning my perfectly lovely chicken soup into a more spicy, Mexican-y version of itself that turned out spectacularly if I do say so myself.

Soup’s On! (Twice…)

The basic ingredients

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken (from a rotisserie or from making the stock)
  • 1 can of corn with the juices
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 6 cups of homemade chicken stock
  • 2 tsp of dried savory
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

The conversion to chowder

  • 2 serano peppers (1 seeded and diced; 1 sliced thinly into rounds
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced thin into short strips
  • approx. 2 tbsps of pickled jalapenos, diced + 2 tbsps of the juice from the jar
  • 1 green onion thinly sliced
  • handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped; plus more for serving
  • 2 tbsps of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of sugar or Stevia
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of whole milk or half and half
  • 1 cup of chopped chicken
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • more S & P


In a large soup pot, add a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook until softening and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Then add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for another 3 minutes; then add the garlic. Cook two minute more.

Add the wine to the pot and scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom. Let the wine simmer for about a minute. Then add the chicken, corn (with juice) and stock. Add the savory and salt/pepper to taste. Bring to a rapid simmer and then reduce heat and let barely bubble for as long as you can stand it. The flavors get better and better as it simmers.

Now change it…

In a small skillet add a drizzle of oil over medium heat and then add the diced seranos and the sliced jalapenos. Sear them up. While they sear add the pickled jalapenos, sugar, cumin, granulated garlic, bay leaves, additional chicken, drained corn and milk or half and half to the pot. Once the peppers are seared and getting soft, add them to the pot, as well.

Then stir in half the cilantro leaves, half the sliced green onion and season it all again with salt and pepper. Let simmer again until the chowder slightly thickens, stirring occasionally.

Serve with more cilantro, green onion and the sliced serano pepper rounds on top. Add a dollop of sour cream or some cheese if you like.

The morale of the story is…

The lessons here are to 1) always have plenty of chicken stock on hand so that you can still make soup if you have a horrible, awful, gut-wrenching chicken stock incident 2) a basic chicken soup is delicious as is, but is also pretty easy to convert to something even more yummy if your husband looks at you like this 😳😲😋🤤.

Oh and here’s a link to my chicken stock recipe.

I’m just mad you haven’t been making this for twenty years.

Robert Escalante

Chocolate Bread

Bread and chocolate are two of my weaknesses. I discovered several years ago that the key to healthy weight for me, in addition to trying to stay somewhat physically active, is to reduce my sugar and carb consumption as much as possible. But I cannot fully give up bread. And I love a nice, dark, not overly sweet, chocolate.

So, when I was craving both the other day, I came across this idea. What could be better than chocolate bread?!?!?!

I have only started doing any baking at all over the last year. I always have flour, baking powder and baking soda on hand, but mostly just used it for thickening a sauce, making a roux, making cornbread, etc. When I started making this easy focaccia recipe (link), then I added instant or quick rise yeast to my pantry. I say this to tell you that most recipes I read for chocolate bread called for bread flour (I just have all-purpose) and active dry yeast (but not rapid rise). I also did not have “Dutch process” cocoa powder. Just store brand from Kroger. I don’t know if this would have turned out better if I’d used any of those more specific things, but my results didn’t seem to suffer for using the lesser options.


  • 3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk, heated until just barely warm
  • 1 envelope yeast (rapid rise, active dry, etc.)
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter (salter or unsalted)
  • 3 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate – you can use chips or coarsely chop up a bar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of flour (all-purpose or bread)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chunks


Put the warm milk in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl), add 1 tablespoon of sugar, stir slightly to combine, then sprinkle the yeast over it. Set aside in a warm spot for 10 – 15 minutes or until bubbles form and the mixture get foamy.

While the yeast is activating, bring some water in a small saucepan to barely simmering. Set a metal bowl over the water and add your butter and 3 onces of chocolate to the bowl. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate melt and are smooth. Remove from heat.

Into your yeast mixture (once foamy) add the remaining sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Mix to combine.

Stir in half of the flour and half of the cocoa powder, then the melted chocolate, then the rest of the flour and cocoa, combining as you go. Attach the dough hook to your mixer and beat for five minutes. If mixing by hand, stir for the same amount of time until smooth.

Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for two hours.

Butter a 9 inch loaf pan. Stir in the chopped chocolate or chips, fold for about 30 seconds. Then transfer the dough to the pan, pressing slightly to spread it to the corners. Let rise for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 350. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.

On the first night, we ate this for dessert with some ice cream and chocolate sauce. But since, I’ve consumed most of the rest for breakfast. Like now, as I write this, it is divine with a cup of coffee.

What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate

Katharine Hepburn


We love a good, authentic tamale. In Atlanta, this isn’t entirely easy to come by. We’ve tried them at many restaurants, and have definitely found a couple that we’d happily eat again, but it is always something we wanted to try making ourselves.

Since we aren’t traveling or eating out these days, now was the time to try. Last weekend Robert went to the Buford Highway Farmers Market (BHFM) and raided the Mexican foods aisle in preparation for our first tamale making adventure!

This is an all day project. The pork should slow cook for 4 – 5 hours to really get tender and easy to shred. The corn husks also need to soak for 2 hours. The rest comes together really easily. So, while this is time consuming, it’s not difficult. Just plan to enjoy the process.

For the Pork and Corn Husks

  • 2 1/2 lb pork butt cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Mesquite or Smoky BBQ spice rub (or any all-purpose spice mix)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 16 oz bag of corn husks

Pour the chicken stock into a crockpot and set to high. Stir in the garlic, onion, cumin salt and pepper.

Season the pork cubes with the mesquite or BBQ spice all over and then add to the crockpot. Top with the bay leaves and give it a quick stir to combine. Let cook for 4 – 5 hours or until the meat is tender and easily shreds with a fork.

Two hours before the meat is done, start soaking your corn husks in hot water. I suggest cleanning out your sink and using this to soak. Otherwise a large pot will do. Put a plate or heavy pot lid on top to keep the husks submerged. After two hours – remove the husks from the water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.

When the pork is tender, strain it from the broth – reserve the broth in a bowl! – and then shred the meat with forks. Set aside.

For the Sauce

  • 3 dried guajillo chile peppers
  • 3 dried ancho chile peppers
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 serrano
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
Red Sauce before blending

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and add to a medium pot. Destem the jalapeno and serrano peppers – you can also remove the seeds and ribs if you want a more mild heat. Add to the pot. Add the onion and garlic, too, and then add just enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and let cook for 15 minutes. Then turn off heat and let cook to room temperature.

Once cool, strain and add the ingredients to your blender. Or back into the pot if you have an immersion blender (stick blender) to use. Puree until smooth. Then strain the sauce to make sure it’s not got any lumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Masa

  • 2 1/2 cups of lard or manteca
  • 2 1/4 cups of masa mix
  • Reserved meat broth from the pork (should have about 4 cups)
  • The red sauce you just made
  • Salt and pepper

Measure out the lard or manteca, then add to a small pot and melt over medium low heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa, salt and pepper and mix well.

At this point you are going to start adding the lard, broth and sauce to the masa mixture. You will keep adding a little at a time until the masa is combined, moist, sticks together and is easily spreadable on the corn husks.

Start by adding about 1 cup of the lard and 2 cups of the broth. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 3 – 4 tablespoons of the red sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce into the pork and mix to combine.

Now, lightly flour your hands, becasue the rest of this mixing needs to be done by hand and not with that spoon. Start working the dough, continue adding broth and lard about 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you want. You may not use all the lard.

As you fill your husks, you may have to add more broth if the mixture starts to firm up, so keep the remaining broth handy.

Put the Tamales together and prepare to steam!

You’ll need a steamer, tamale pot or similar contraption to steam the folded tamales. We used my large stock pot, put a bowl in the bottom and set my steamer basket on top. Then a coffee mug on top of that to prop the tamales against. Worked like a charm!

Take a corn husk with the smooth side up and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on the husk. Smooth out to create a thin layer of the masa on the husk. Top with 2 tablespoons of the pork down the center. Then fold the husk over to create a delicious little masa/pork envelope. Think ‘tuck and roll’. Then fold the long end of the husk underneath. Repeat.

Stack the tamales up until you’re done rolling them all and then add them to the steamer pot, standing upright if possible, folded end down. Cover the top with the remaining husks to help keep the moisture in and cover with a lid. Note: if your lid doesn’t fit (ours didn’t) cover with the remaining husks and then aluminum foil.

Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until they easily release from the husks.

The Fresh Chile Co.’s Pure Green is perfect with tamales!

For serving, I really enjoy a great verde salsa with tamales. You can definitely make your own, but there are also a lot of amazing options out there to purchase.

My current favorite is the Pure Green Chile Roast from “The Fresh Chile Co.” Their sauces and salsas are amazing!

I hope you will enjoy your next food adventure as much as we enjoyed this one!

But I always felt that I’d rather be provincial hot-tamale than soup without seasoning

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sheet Pan Stuffing with Pancetta

You know what’s super fun? Making it yourself when for years you only used the stuff in a box. I mean, I always “doctored” up the box stuffing, too. Added fresh onion, garlic and herbs with some additional seasoning. I still have a box in my pantry – which I am sure I will still eat at some point.

But this homemade stuffing is so, so good. Like happy dance good.

This is great with roast chicken. We’ve also had it with turkey. You can add or subtract ingredients as you choose. The first time I included Brussels Sprouts leaves, the second time I used kale. This last time, we skipped the leafy greens altogether and just used some extra herbs.

Here’s what you’ll need

  • 1 large loaf of crusty bread – I like to use a nice garlic roasted italian for extra flavor
  • 2 ounces of pancetta, proscuitto or bacon
  • 4 tbsps butter
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup of sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 to 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bunch of sage, thyme, parsley or a combo (use more of this if you skip the greens)
  • salt and pepper
  • If you want to use the Brussels Sprouts or greens you’ll need about a 1/4 lb.
    • For the sprouts – core, remove and separate all the leaves
    • For other greens – remove stems, roughly chop

Here’s what you’ll do

Preheat the oven to 275

Tear or slice the bread into cubes about 1-inch in size

Spread the bread on sheet pans – use two if needed since the cubes need to be in a single layer. Place the pans in the oven for about 45 minutes. Then set aside to cool. Once completely cool, transfer the bread to one large mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 350.

Place pancetta in a large saute pan over medium to medium low heat. Cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp. Be careful not to burn it. Transfer the pancetta to a plate.

Add 4 tbsps of the butter to the saute pan along with the diced onions and celery. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until translucent, about 2 more minutes. Then add the fresh herbs and greens if using. Toss to coat then transfer the contents to the bowl with the bread.

Add the wine or sherry to the pan and cook until nearly reduced, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add this and the pancetta to the bowl, too.

Then add half the stock, salt and pepper to the bowl and toss everything together until combined. Taste. Add more salt if needed at this stage. Whisk the egg with the remaining stock to combine then add to the bowl. Toss to combine again. Each cube of bread should feel saturated with liquid. If there’s extra liquid in the bowl – let the bread sit and soak it up for a bit longer. If it seems dry, add more stock.

Grease your sheet pan(s) lightly with butter. Transfer the stuffing to the pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes. Then uncover, increase the temp to 450 and cook for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or until browned. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.

Anthony Bourdain