No-Fuss Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Let’s face it–some sourdough recipes are anything but no-fuss. On the coattails of sourdough’s great, quarantine-inspired resurgence, many bread lovers with lofty aspirations of achieving the perfect loaf have come to the same conclusion: working with sourdough can be kind of hard.

It’s not that caring for a starter poses an insurmountable challenge. If anything, neglecting–or simply forgetting–about your starter in the fridge can be the biggest hurdle, if you don’t bake every day, or even every week.

What Does It Mean To Care For Sourdough Starter

The fact is, sourdough is alive with wild yeasts and lactobacilli, an umbrella term for bacteria strains typically found in yogurt and dairy products. These strains of bacteria excel at converting sugar into lactic and acetic acid, which translates, happily for us, into flavor. (This is why we love our artisan bakers for intimately caring for their cultured loaves, from the beginning stages of liquid starter to a gorgeously shaped levain.)

Dreamy as the sourdough life may seem, not all of us can shape our lives around a schedule dictated by bacteria, temperature, and flour. The good news is, there are many uses for sourdough starter other than making bread, many of which take much less time to master.

Ways to De-Mystify Your Starter

If pulling out the scale once a week becomes a pain-point in the process of caring for your starter, ditch it.

The deeper one digs into the realm of sourdough culture (pun intended) the more involved (and superstitious) recipes for sourdough become. A baker may weigh every ounce to the proper decimal, consider every variable impacting culture activity, and plan their life around their starter–and still bake a crummy loaf.

Don’t view your starter as a complex adversary–it is a new friend you are getting to know.

Feed your sourdough culture 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour when you pull it from the fridge. Clean the container, pour the fed starter back into its vessel, and use what doesn’t fit in a recipe like No-Fuss Cinnamon Rolls. (This is called sourdough discard.)

If you are unsure of how to use your sourdough discard, consider these ideas:

A simple rule of thumb for understanding sourdough starter behavior is, the warmer the environment, the more active the starter. This is why if you keep sourdough starter on your fridge, it requires daily feedings–versus the weekly feedings required when kept in the fridge.

Resources For Further Sourdough Recipes and Research

  • The New York Times produced a deep dive into making a sourdough loaf, with illustrative pictures and step-by-step instructions.
  • Breadtopia hosts a wealth of information about different kinds of flours, sourdough care, loaf-shaping methods, and also boasts a large collection of recipes.
  • King Arthur Flour is a trusted source for recipes with predictable levels of success for bakers of all experience levels.
  • Cultures For Health is an excellent resource for many “alive” products, including milk and water kefirs, sourdough, kombucha, and more.

But enough about starter care: let’s get to the good stuff.


hear that? that’s the sound of success. and also, my neighbors’ construction project 🙂

This recipe is for the casual sourdough fan,

who may have acquired a starter during quarantine but still would unabashedly consider themselves in the “training wheels” phase of Sourdough Understanding. Personally, I’ve had my starter for years, and I’m still getting to know it–I am still baking loaves that cause me frustration, and, occasionally, I bake beautiful ones.

These cinnamon rolls, however, have yet to disappoint. This was one of the first recipes I ever followed which yielded successful results from a starter and made me believe that maybe I was, in fact, developing the accompanying intuition for translating my starter’s behavior into an end result I wanted to eat.

vanilla cream cheese frosting makes everything better…and a flaky bun makes for a great bite

Assemble the ingredients for the dough and mix.

there’s our friend the sourdough starter, in the top left corner
she may look a little shaggy, but she cleans up real neat

It is very important not to overmix the dough at any point in this recipe!

When you first begin mixing the ingredients together, feel free to use your hands so you can experience the textural change the ingredients undergo as they combine. The dough should barely come together, feel shaggy, and also very tender. The more you “knead” the dough and mix it together, the tougher it gets (and nobody wants a tough bun!) due to gluten networks forming. Treat this dough as gently as possible and you will be rewarded with airy, delicious buns.

On paper, this shaggy mixture should hang out at room temperature overnight–but since it’s been a little colder at my place in these winter months, I let it sit on the counter, covered, for about 18 hours. Again, don’t go overboard adhering to a strict schedule on this one. I’ve made these before letting the dough rest about 10 hours with great success. This is not a recipe to stress about…promise.

Here’s what the dough looked like after resting for a glorious 18 hours:

the dough should be significantly more relaxed in the bottom of the bowl
l: filling ingredients; r: rising agents and salt for dough

Sprinkle baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the dough and mix gently until incorporated. Dough should be incredibly soft, tender, and supple at this point and will literally feel like (and resemble) a dimpled baby’s bottom. Roll dough out over a floured surface into a vaguely rectangular shape.

Filling ingredients are mashed together with a fork until a paste forms. Spread over the dough, roll into a log, and cut.

i am of the school of thought that more filling is better…
leave some space in your pan to account for growth
whipped up some vanilla cream cheese frosting, because that’s my business
good morning to me
if you like a bun with a little structural integrity, this is the recipe for you

No-Fuss Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

This simple dough relaxes at room temperature overnight before being rolled out, rolled up, and baked into sweety cinnamon-y goodness.
Prep Time 45 mins
Resting Time 12 hrs
Total Time 13 hrs 10 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American, festive, holiday, Intuitive, sourdough, traditional

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 1/2 cup cold butter, salted
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup active sourdough starter, or sourdough discard
  • 1 Tbs white sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Filling

  • 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar

Icing

  • 4 oz full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • 12 hours or so before you wish to bake, prepare the dough.
  • Using a food processor or a pastry cutter, combine butter and flour until the mixture looks sandy and uniform. If using a food processor, empty contents into a large bowl. Add starter, sugar, and milk and very gently mix until dough only just comes together. It is important not to overmix at this stage. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean, damp towel and let rest at room temperature 12-18 hours.
  • In a small bowl, mix salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Sprinkle over the rested dough and mix with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated. Dough should slacken considerably and feel very tender and light. Again, be careful not to overmix.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Lightly flour a clean level surface and roll out the dough until it is roughly 1/4" thick, and in a rectangular shape.
  • In a medium bowl, mash warm butter, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger with a fork until a paste forms. Spread the paste evenly over the dough using the back of a spoon or a spatula.
  • Roll the dough up lengthwise as tightly as possible. Cut the ends off of the log, then cut the remaining dough into roughly 1" thick rounds.
  • Place buns in a buttered cast iron skillet, cookie sheet, or muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes, or until buns are golden brown at the edges.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the icing in a medium bowl. Combine room temperature cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and milk with a whisk or spatula. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated, adding more sugar as desired.
  • Drizzle buns with icing and serve immediately. Keeps in the fridge up to 3 days. Reheat in small bursts in the microwave for delicious leftovers.
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Cranberry Orange Sablés

Any fellow cranberry junkies out there? (It’s okay to raise your hand, this is a safe space…!)

Consuming cranberries is my favorite way to maintain basic urinary health while boosting my immune system. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is like absorbing pure vitality; even the shocking taste is bracing, like taking a polar bear plunge or throwing back a shot of fresh ginger juice.

With every passing year, I place more and more cranberry sauce on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. It becomes a welcome addition to turkey, bacon sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes…I pass it around my dish like a rumor, allowing it to shapeshift and add brightness to every decadent bite.

So this year, when I passed by the cranberries in the grocery store only to discover that they were on sale, I ended up celebrating this fact by buying a lot…as in, over five bags of fresh cranberries…

After making cranberry relish, I still had four bags of cranberries. These are destined to become a cranberry curd tart, cranberry simple syrup, cranberry apple handpies…anything left over will head straight to the freezer for mocktails.

Before the holiday was up, I’d made cranberry cookies. The recipe is fresh-tasting, delightfully simple, and can all be combined in one large mixing bowl. (I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary dishes I have to do.)

sugar, flour, orange zest, pulverized dried cranberries and walnuts…what’s not to love?

Once combined, the dough is shaped into a log, rolled in sugar, and placed in the fridge for at least two hours.

cookies are cut about 1/2″ thick

With these flavorful, sightly cookies, erring on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking, is key.

ever so slightly golden on the bottom with a moist crumb, these simple cookies may end up a seasonal staple!

Cranberry Orange Sablés

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Seasonal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, salted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • zest of one orange
  • 2-3 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
  • additional sugar to roll over cookie log

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor or blender, combine cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar and blend until the cranberries are fine and mostly uniform in size. Place in a large bowl.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor, add walnuts, and cut until they resemble coarse meal. Add to the large bowl with the cranberries.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor once more. Add the flour and remaining sugar, and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. Add to the bowl with walnuts and cranberries. Add orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
  • Knead the dough until a ball comes together, adding orange juice as needed to moisten the dough. Form into a log about two inches in diameter, and roll in sugar if desired. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge between two hours and three days.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut cookies using a large knife to about 1/2" thickness. Place cookies on a baking sheet with at least 1" of space between them. Bake 13-15 minutes, being careful not to overbake.
  • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the warm baking sheet before removing and placing on a wire rack to continue to cool.
  • Save in an airtight container up to 4 days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 3 months.
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Savory Bay Bread Pudding

One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding.

Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.

This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)

Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?

the custard base is flavored with salt, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns.

It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.

the leek is optional, but I added it for a boost of alum flavor

Throw it all in a pan and bake.

bay pairs great with potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce…!

Savory Bay Bread Pudding

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, traditional

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups bread, chopped into 1" chunks
  • 2 Tbs butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 leek, washed and cut into 1/4" chunks

Instructions
 

  • Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
  • When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.
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Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.

“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”

Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.

And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.

Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.

This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…

To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.

frangipane ingredients

Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:

as you can see i beat this by hand, but feel free to use and electric or stand mixer if that’s what makes you happy : )

(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)

As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.

before
after. i used quince jelly because i had it, but the original recipe calls for red currant.

By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.

are you enticed yet? : )

Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French, traditional

Ingredients
  

Sugar Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 7 Tbs chilled butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Poached Pears

  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly (or other preserves with mild flavor)

Instructions
 

Sugar Crust

  • Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
  • Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frangipane

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
  • Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
  • Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Poached Pears

  • Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
  • Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.

Tart Assembly

  • Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
  • Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I’m sure we can all agree that the circumstances surrounding this holiday are less than ideal. It’s challenging for families to come together, connect, and share food due to travel limitations. It seems most folks are celebrating on a smaller scale than usual, reducing their menu for the day if they’re even observing the holiday at all–at least, this is what I’ve observed on my food-saturated social media feed.

If you, too, are cooking for two, or four, or even just yourself–you may consider a roast chicken as your centerpiece rather than larger fowl.

Of all the chickens I have ever roasted in my life (and I love roast chicken!) this buttermilk chicken from Samin Nosrat is the juiciest, most chicken-y roast chicken I have ever had the sublime pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It really is about quality of ingredients because there are so few: take care to use a fine grain salt, like a sea salt or kosher salt, good buttermilk with few additives (or make your own like I do!) and a chicken that you can wager, with reasonable certainty, lived a good life. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel pretty certain that one can taste the difference in quality meat.

If you treat this recipe with the respect it deserves by investing in quality ingredients, you will be rewarded with beautiful results. For me, this was a life-changing, eureka moment, holy-smokes-this-is-it recipe for roast chicken. (You should probably buy yourself a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat if you haven’t already.)

I like to keep the ingredients fairly simple in accordance with the original recipe. The lemon, herbs, and half an onion featured are optional, but delicious, additions.

this chicken marinated for two days in the fridge, though samin recommends 24 hours. i have found that two days does not negatively impact the chicken at all by drying it out w salt exposure–in fact, two days is kind of my sweet spot for this recipe, taking care to rotate the chicken every 8-12 hours, or whenever it crosses my mind: whichever comes first.

After I drained the chicken of buttermilk, I tucked the thyme under the skin near the breast meat, and stuffed the cavity with half of a small onion, a small bundle of sage, and a squeezed lemon half. The legs get tied together with twine.

samin instructs us to remove excess buttermilk from the skin by “scraping it off”; i have never found this to be a necessary step. if you hold the chicken so the cavity is facing over the sink or garbage can and wait patiently for a few seconds, the extra moisture should wick away. any remaining milk solids contributed to that delicious, delicious browning on the skin–and tell me, why would one want to prevent this from happening??

The first time I tried this recipe, I was slightly daunted by the recipes–shall we say, specific–roasting instructions. However, I followed them to a T and, I have to say the results made a believer out of me. Just try it. It will work. Trust me. (If you can’t trust me, trust Samin.)

i removed the chicken as soon as the drumstick juices ran clear and the breast meat clocked in at 155°F–for best browning results, use a shallow cast iron to house your chicken.

After you pick clean the carcass with the most delicious chicken you’ve had, maybe ever, save the bones/carcass to make stock. It’s soup season, after all…

Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Aromatics

Based on Samin Nosrat's recipe in NYT Cooking.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Resting Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, keto, paleo, traditional

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 4 lb chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • fine grain salt
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced into the cavity and shoved inside, optional
  • fresh sage, optional
  • fresh thyme, optional

Instructions
 

  • One to two days before you cook the chicken, generously season it with salt, and rub into the skin. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not be shocked if you go through 2-3 Tablespoons, bearing in mind what is not absorbed by the bird initially will dissolve into the buttermilk as it marinates.
  • If using any aromatics like fresh herbs, onion, lemon, garlic, etc, tuck under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken now.
  • Place chicken into a large zip top bag and seal the buttermilk inside. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning the bag whenever you remember; ideally this is every 8-12 hours.
  • An hour and 15 minutes before you plan to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge to thaw. After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 425°F and take care your rack is centered in your oven.
  • Drain the chicken of the buttermilk over a sink or garbage can. When the chicken is completely drained, place it in a shallow cast iron pan. Slide the cast iron to the very back of the stove and into one corner of the oven, so that legs are pointing in the corner. Bake this way for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes has passed, reduced oven heat to 400°F, and continue roasting 10 more minutes. Then, rotate chicken so that it is in the other backmost corner, with legs facing in the opposite corner. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is a beautiful brown on top, juices pricked from where the drumstick meets the carcass run clear, or until the breast meat clocks in at 155°F-165°F.
  • If chicken is getting too crispy as you wait for it to reach temperature, feel free to cover the top with foil.
  • Let bird rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy.
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Easiest, Best Pizza Crust

Do you have once a week pizza night in your house? Do you WISH you had once a week pizza night in your house, but are intimidated by the “hassle” of homemade crust?

Worry no more. The simplest, tastiest pizza crust recipe is now available to you. The hardest part about making this recipe is waiting the extra 48 hours for the flavor to develop in the bulk ferment in the fridge. But if you have the patience to wait three full days for your pizza (yes, anticipation IS part of the flavor) your dinner will taste high calibre even if you’re simply using up leftovers from your fridge to top your ‘za. So, for the sake of your tastebuds, try and give this dough the full time to “grow” into itself.

Another perk of this recipe is there’s flavor without the fuss of sourdough. All this batch of dough needs is 1 gram of yeast. That’s it. The rest of the flavor comes from natural yeasts in the air, and time.

I mean, just look at this beauty after she’s been partitioned into individual bowls and left to come into her own:

1 gram of dry yeast later…

Add some of your favorite toppings while your oven sits at 550°F and bake for 8 minutes. And boom! Hearth-fire-style pizza, right at home. Date night with your Other just got a little bit better.

can you eat a whole ‘za?

But why trust a picture? This cheap project yields handsome rewards. Besides, there’s a pandemic. You’ve got nothing but time! (Sorry, sorry…too soon? …it might be too soon.)

I topped my most recent pizza with a few hearty spoonfuls of ricotta, fresh basil and red sauce, ground Italian sausage, and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Needless to say, there were no surviving pieces to enjoy for lunch the next day.

Simple Three Day Pizza Dough

food52
Based on this recipe from food52.
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Rise time 1 d
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 16 grams fine salt
  • 1 gram active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Whisk together bread flour, salt, and yeast.
  • Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon, spatula, or your hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Once mixture is combined, lightly flour a countertop and knead for several minutes to remove clumps. Dough should easily come together in a ball.
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at 24 hours at room temperature, undisturbed. It should bubble and roughly double in size.
  • Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop and place the dough on it. Divide dough into 4 equal portions for 10 inch pies.
  • Place the dough balls into oiled, airtight containers or small bowls covered in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 48-96 hours.
  • Remove from the fridge at LEAST 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature. This lets the gluten relax and allows you to more easily shape the dough into a disc for baking.
  • To make pizza, preheat the oven to 550°F while the partitioned dough is coming to room temperature from the fridge. Place a pizza stone, flat baking sheet, or cast iron in the oven to preheat while you stretch the dough into a flat shape. Place onto a pizza peel or another flat baking sheet with a fine dusting of rice flour or cornmeal, so the dough can freely slide off and into the oven. Add desired toppings, and bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Let rest at least 1 minute before cutting.
Keyword active dry yeast, chewy crust, crust, dough, natural yeast, pizza, pizza crust, pizza dough

Southern Key Lime Pie

After wandering through an antiques store in Little Mountain, South Carolina, I managed to emerge with only three vintage cookbooks. This, truth be told, was nothing short of a miracle. As it turns out, there are a lot of antique cookbooks to be had here, which, as a newcomer, I found terribly hard to resist.

I leafed through the recipes hungrily, looking for different culinary influences in the ingredients which might have contributed in some way to southern cooking’s unique charm. I suspected to encounter a lot of butter and refined sugar–and it’s true, those ingredients were star players on many of the pages–but I was excited to see ingredients more on the “earthy” side, like turnips, greens, root vegetables, and grains.

Colonialist ingredients clearly do not stand on their own, in this cuisine: the more “rooted” ingredients add a lot of richness to a well-rounded palate, much fuller than the myopic view fast food chains would lead us to believe.

When I saw a tantalizingly simple recipe for key lime pie, I figured I’d best give it a shot. I’m trying to pinch my pennies right now, after all. The South is a pretty good place to do this; plus, freshly made key lime pie makes it easy to forget one is doing so.

here are most of the gathered ingredients (note: i did not end up using all of the limes)

This was a great excuse to break in my new food processor, besides…blitzing the sleeve of graham crackers was delightfully easy, and made perfectly uniform pieces.

pulverized graham crackers, salt, and quality butter baked for 7 minutes and smelled divine

This recipe was dead simple. Only a handful of ingredients, and just a few steps. The hardest part was waiting for the pie to chill…

I managed to let this simple beauty chill overnight, no small feat

Because you need whipped cream on a key lime pie, I added a few finishing touches, and…voila! Will definitely be eating this for breakfast until it’s gone…

Southern Key Lime Pie

This recipe based off of a vintage Southern Living cookbook, as simple as it is sweet!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 22 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Southern Cooking
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Crust

  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 6 Tbs butter melted
  • 1 pinch finely ground salt

Filling

  • 2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Blitz graham crackers in a food processor or blender until they are uniform in texture and size. Add melted butter and salt and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  • Press graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch pie dish until it is evenly dispersed in a thin layer across the bottom and up the sides.
  • Bake for 7 minutes, or until the tops of the crust are golden brown and releasing a pleasant aroma. Cool at least 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, beat sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and freshly squeezed lime juice in a medium bowl with a whisk until combined. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Zest fresh lime peel evenly over the top of the custard mixture, and chill at least two hours.
  • Before serving, whip cream and powdered sugar in a deep bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Using either a piping bag or a spoon, place 12 dollops of cream around the edges of the surface of the pie in a circle, then one dollop for the middle. If desired, zest more lime peel over the top. Serve immediately.
Keyword classic, dessert, key lime, key lime pie, simple recipe, southern cooking, southern cuisine, southern food, whipped cream

South Carolina Shrimp and Grits

Within the first week of arriving in the South, I made it a priority to track down a hot serving of shrimp and grits. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to find a place producing this southern classic.

I was amazed by the flavor such simple ingredients can pack; it’s safe to say I’ve never tasted anything like it, having rarely encountered southern cuisine in my daily life until recently.

When I saw locally-sourced blue corn grits, I felt inspired to give this dish the old college try. I purchased my first ever container of Cajun seasoning (made in Louisiana!) and prepped my ingredients as I let my thoughts wander backwards to what it was that made that first forkful taste so…significant. Perhaps a splash of cream over the top added to the sweetness of the moment?

blue grits from the congaree milling company

There’s no shortage of dairy and salt in this take on the classic. Go easy on the Cajun seasoning if you are sensitive to spice. Don’t skip the bay leaves. Cut your peppers and onion uniformly. And remember: relax! Southern cooking and stress do not go well together (don’t ask me how I know !)

Best served immediately. A spicy red wine would be a divine compliment to this dish.

South Carolina Shrimp and Grits

I added quite a bit of Cajun seasoning because I like my food spicy–however, it's important to taste as you go.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Southern Cooking
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • mandolin
  • Dutch oven
  • Cast iron skilled

Ingredients
  

Grits

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups corn grits stone ground
  • 2 whole bay leaves dried
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 Tbs unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Meat Sauce

  • 1/2 red bell pepper large
  • 1 jalapeño large
  • 1 white onion small
  • 2 smoked sausages or andouille sausages
  • 5 pieces thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 can light beer
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • fresh watercress leaves for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Place water, milk, grits, bay leaves, and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook, whisking attentively, 30-40 minutes, adding small amounts of water and lowering heat as needed if grits begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove bay leaves, and add butter and parmesan and stir into the grits, tasting for salt. Stir in heavy cream and simmer about 1 more minute, or until the cream is incorporated. Cover until ready to serve.
  • Meanwhile, finely slice red bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion into uniform slices. In a large cast iron pan, sauté bacon over medium high heat until crispy, then drain on paper towels. Add the two sausages to the pan with reserved bacon fat and sear on both sides of the sausage until crisped and browned, about 4 minutes each side. Add sliced vegetables and sear, about 3 minutes. Add beer and Cajun seasoning and stir until vegetables and sausages are coated. Cover and turn heat to medium, leaving undisturbed for 5 minutes. 
  • Remove lid, remove sausages using tongs and place on the same draining plate as the bacon. Add butter and heavy cream to the pan and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. While sauce is reducing, snip drained bacon into 1” pieces and add to the pan. As soon as sausages are cool enough to handle, cut each lengthwise, then into half-inch-thick half-moons. Add to the pan and stir.
  • Partition grits into bowls and ladle meat and sauce over the top. Garnish with a pinch of watercress and serve immediately.
Keyword blue corn, Cajun, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, from scratch, grits, homemade, intuitive eater, intuitive eating, shrimp and grits, South Carolina, southern cooking

Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples

I rarely come across a recipe that I don’t adapt in the kitchen. Few and far between are the chefs I trust implicitly enough to blindly follow a recipe for the first time. Dorie Greenspan is one of those chefs.

My sister recently learned that she is intolerant to gluten. Rather than shower her in gluten-free approximations of traditional sweet treats, I decided to get a little creative (and a little seasonal) and see what the internet had to offer on the happenstantially-gluten-free-dessert front. (Thank you, internet, for always providing me with what I seek!)

The only modification I made to this recipe was the kind of apple I baked. Dorie recommends large baking apples (Rome Beauty, to be precise) but I had these smaller, Opal apples on hand which still tasted beautiful baked–I found the portion size for a smaller apple to be closer to what I could comfortably eat as well. (Sorry Dorie, for the slight deviation…)

Everything else about this recipe I followed to the letter, and was so pleased with the results. I’d never made baked apples (somehow!) and was frankly delighted with the whole process. Coring and stuffing the apples, basting them in high-quality pressed cider and butter, watching them puff and brown in the oven…the whole experience was part of the treat of eating them. To boot, this recipe is grain-free and refined-sugar-free, so flavorful, and feels so perfectly autumnal. The real sense of indulgence comes from the butter and whipped cream, which are beautifully complimented by the sharpness of the apple and the warmth of the candied ginger. I mean it when I tell you this recipe left a profound enough impression on me, it will probably become a yearly staple…and I’m sure I’ll make it again before fall is gone.

the top right bowl contains raisins

There was definitely a steep learning curve in terms of coring the apples without an apple core-er. I used this cheese knife to pierce concentrically around the core, then used a small spoon to scoop out the flesh I’d serrated–a labor intensive process, but so rewarding. These apples are cute as a button when they’re all hollowed out with little lids for the top!

dorie recommends peeling away the topmost layer of apple skin and leaving the rest; this has the effect of adding a note of gastronomy to this simple and homey dessert!
the apples were stuffed with dried apple chunks, unsweetened raisins, and candied ginger, then topped with a generous pat of butter!

Apple cider and honey go into the pie dish and the whole thing bakes for about an hour, until…

my frankenstiened toothpick apple exploded, but that’s ok! the innards flavored the basting liquid and it still tasted delicious

I basted the apples three times over the course of the hour, spooning buttery cider into the hollowed cavity and over the tops of the apples.

apple cross section–don’t forget the whipped cream!!
serve with maple-syrup sweetened whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, and buttery cider juices from the bottom of the pie dish. YUM.

Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples

Serves 4-6

Apples

  • 4 large apples or 6 medium ones
  • ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  • ¼ c dried apple rings, broken into small chunks
  • 4 pieces of crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 c raisins
  • 2 teaspoons honey per apple, + 2 more tsp for basting liquid
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup pressed apple cider

Topping

  • ½ c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbs maple syrup
  • Dash of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 and make sure a rack is centered in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and place a 9” pie dish on top.

Cut a small cap off the top of each apple, and keep it close to its mate so they don’t get confused. Use a small paring knife or corer to remove the core from the apples. (Note: sometimes perforating the apple flesh with a fork or cheese knife makes for easier work.) Peel the topmost layer of apple skin underneath the cap of each apple and reserve. Rub the peeled and cored apple flesh with lemon and squeeze some juice into each opening.

In a small bowl, combine equal parts ginger, dried apple chunks, and raisins to make the filling. Press down into the opening of each apple, and drizzle 2 tsp honey into each apple. Cut the butter into as many chunks as you have apples, and place each pat over the top of the cavity. Pop the lid back on the apple, and don’t worry if it feels very full!

Pour cider into the pie dish and mix in 2 tsp honey, two lemon wedges, and reserved apple peelings. (Chef’s note: the honey won’t dissolve evenly into the cider at first, but don’t fret!)

Arrange the apples in the pie dish and bake.

Baste the apples occasionally with the liquid from the pie dish as they bake, at least three times. When you can poke them with a fork and meet minimal resistance, 50-70 minutes, they are done. 

Let them cool for about 15 minutes as you prepare the whipped cream.

Add cream and maple syrup to a medium bowl with high walls, or a large bowl. Beat with an electric beater until fluffy and of desired texture, about 5 minutes.

When the apples have cooled slightly, top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon. 

These apples keep 2 days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.