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Without a doubt, the most intimidating aspect of sourdough baking is understanding its key element: the starter.

What is a sourdough starter you ask?

Simply put: a starter is a live fermented culture of flour and water. Once it becomes bubbly and active a small portion is used to make your bread dough rise- no commercial yeast is required. It’s a technique that can be traced back thousands of years when instant yeast (the stuff that most of us use) was not yet available.

Doesn’t sound too scary, right?

But there’s a catch.

A starter is not just this “thing” you create and walk away from forever.

It must be kept alive and well with additional feedings (flour and water) to keep it bubbly and active. Remember, it’s a living culture which must be cared for with intent. Otherwise, your bread won’t rise. It’s like having a pet that needs to be fed daily, or a house plant that needs water and a sunny window. At its core, sourdough is about understanding and committing to an ongoing relationship.

As with all relationships however, there lies a bit of uncertainty.

You might ask youself: “Am I doing this right? Why does my starter look different than yours? Why is it taking forever to rise? Is it dead?”

That’s why I’ve put together this article for you.

Most of the information is already covered in Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, but I’ve included additional information to answer any questions you might have, and to open up the topic for discussion. Because let’s face it: troubleshooting your sourdough starter could go on for ages!

Two quick things before you begin-

To streamline the process, this post assumes you have a working knowledge of a 100% hydration starter, made from equal parts regular wheat flour and water by weight. This is the most common type of sourdough starter.

This post is also very comprehensive. To avoid loosing your mind as you digest the details, take your time and read through it a few times until the aha moment strikes!

Because eventually, it will…

1.) Why Won’t My Starter Rise?

Ahh yes… the million dollar question. It’s like asking: “Why won’t my 2-year-old sleep through the night?”

Because a sourdough starter is a living culture, like children of a certain age, they will share similarities. Each one will have their own unique personality and the “one size fits all approach” doesn’t always work.

Some bakers use science to explain these personality differences and others simply observe, follow their intuition, and allow the starter to teach them. I implement both techniques.

Keep in mind, when troubleshooting your sourdough starter, it’s usually a combination of factors. In my experience, the rise time is based on temperature, ingredient selection, feeding frequencies, type of flour & the quantity of flour used.  

A.) Temperature: Starters love warm environments. The warmer the spot the quicker it will rise. But realistically, finding a warm spot can be challenging especially when baking in the winter. The ideal temperature is somewhere between 75-85 F.

Here are a few things you can do:

Try storing your starter in a cozy cabinet. It’s warm, draft free, and I have to say, my personal starter does really well in this snug little habitat. Experiment with a cabinet that’s near your stove for extra warmth.

Another option is to wrap the starter jar in a heating pad. One of my kombucha readers (Hi, Melanie!) suggested this tip and it’s very clever. The heating pad maintains the starter at an approximate temperature which can be adjusted to your liking.

proofing box can also be used to control the temperature. If you don’t have a proofing box, place your starter in the oven (turned off) with the light on. But please make sure to keep an eye on it and turn the light off, if necessary. It can get very hot in there! Another makeshift proofing box option is to use your microwave; just place the starter inside (turned off) with the light on.

Note: regarding temperature, if your starter is exceptionally strong and vibrant, it will have no problem rising in warm OR cold environments, even in the fridge. My starter is a workhorse and will rise ANYWHERE. This is because it’s well fed and cared for. Keep this in mind as you continue to develop a relationship with your personal starter.

B.) Ingredient Selection: A sourdough starter is made from flour and water. For best results, always use quality ingredients.

For the flour, please use something that is unbleached, unbromated, and does not contain chemicals.

Most non-organic U.S. flours, including my preferred brand King Arthur Flour, are enriched with vitamins and minerals including iron, folic acid and other vitamins. This is okay to use. I also like Trader Joe’s all-purpose flour for feedings.

However, when troubleshooting your starter, please do not switch back and forth between brands- it’s too confusing and you won’t know where you went wrong. Stick to one brand first, try to rule out additional factors that might be giving you trouble, and then make changes from there.

For the water, try using filtered or bottled water to avoid any trace chemicals or chlorine if you think it’s having a negative effect on the rise. I don’t have to do this at home, my tap is fine.

C.) Feeding Frequencies: Ever have those days where you’re just ravenous?

Starters can be ravenous too. If at one point your starter was all bubbly and happy, and now it’s not rising anymore, it’s possible that it needs a few extra feedings to boost the yeast development. So, assuming you’ve digested points A & B above try feeding your starter 2x per day and see what happens. Also, if your starter has been stored in the fridge for a while, it’s going to need several feedings at room temperature to become bubbly. Have patience!

**Additional information regarding the starter rise times can be found in Sections 2 & 3 below**

2.) What Type Of Flour Can I Feed It With?

Feed your starter with the same flour from which it’s made.

Now, let me just clarify: every baker has their own way of feeding their starter. And one method is not necessarily better than the next (just different).

To cut through the noise with reliable results, feed your starter with the same flour that’s in the jar. For example, if your starter is made with all purpose flour, feed it with all purpose flour. If it’s made with rye flour, feed it with rye flour. Easy peasy.

By doing so, you’ll establish a consistent feeding routine and the rise time will become more predictable. Think about it this way: how would your dog feel if you fed him a different type of dry food each week? Starters are no different!

3.) How Much Flour and Water Does My Starter Need?

Feed your starter following a 1:1:1 ratio by weight.

Again, every baker has a different method, but following a 1:1:1 ratio by weight will get you reliable results. Your starter will rise more predictably, and if you’re lucky, it will stay at its peak height for quite a while before it collapses.

For example, if you have 30 g of starter in the jar, feed it with 30g of flour + 30g of water. If you have 60g of starter, feed it with 60g of flour + 60g of water. Please use a kitchen scale for this! You can easily scale the initial starter quantity up or down, depending on how much you want to maintain now or in the future.

Note: to determine the weight of your starter you’ll need to know the weight of the jar first. To do so, weigh the empty jar and note the amount somewhere, either on paper or a piece of masking tape affixed to the bottom of the jar. Then weigh the jar with the starter inside and subtract the original jar weight. Got that?
4.) I Created a Starter Following the Instructions in Your Book… It Used to Be Bubbly, But Now it Stopped and Nothing’s Happening? Did I do Something Wrong? Should I Start Over?

Believe it or not, this is 100% normal.

Typically, when creating a starter from scratch, you’ll see bubbles on the surface around Day #3. When you start feeding it with flour and water on Day #4 and beyond, the bubbles may or may not appear as quickly. It makes sense to think that something’s wrong! But don’t panic.

In order to cultivate and develop the yeast within your starter, you need to feed it for several days in order to see results. The process can be unpredictable, and each person you talk to will have a different experience based on their personal situation and environment. It’s easy to get caught up and compare, doubt yourself, and think it’s not working.

So, should you start the whole process over?

No! Continue to follow the instructions in the book, but make sure to read this post a few times, including Sections 1-3 to familiarize yourself with possible troubleshooting factors. If you’re still stumped, please be patient and continue to feed your starter until it bubbles and doubles in size. Eventually, you will see results. It just takes time.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦
5.) What Type of Container of Jar Should I use for My Sourdough Starter?

I wrote a whole post on this. Click here.

6.) Does the Starter Jar Need To Be Airtight?

The jar or container can be airtight or covered loosely; it’s your choice.

If it’s airtight, just make sure the jar is large enough to accommodate the starter’s growth as it begins to rise (at least double in size). Otherwise it will burst through the jar.

If you choose a loose cover such as a cloth or something else that’s breathable, and a skin forms on the surface, that means too much air is getting into your starter. It’s not the end of the world if you see this; just peel it off and/ or choose an airtight lid instead.

7.) What Is That Dark, Smelly Liquid On My Starter?

It’s called hooch which is an indication that your starter needs to be fed.

Don’t worry, it’s not dead. Just exhausted. This liquid is something you’ll see regularly, either on the surface of your starter or even within the culture itself (as pictured above), so get used to it! Because the liquid is unsightly and smells like gym socks, I pour it off with some of the discolored starter underneath and feed it right away. That’s all you have to do.

PS: hooch is not mold.

8.) What Should My Starter Smell Like?

First all all, your starter shouldn’t smell too vinegary, like gym socks, or nail polish remover. If it does, it just needs to be fed. Don’t freak out over this too much. At some point your starter will smell like this.

On the other hand, when your starter is in good shape it should smell fresh, fruity and yeasty.

So, what does that even mean?

Fresh, fruity,  and yeasty aromas will vary from starter to starter. Some will smell like toasted coconuts and pineapple, others will smell like apple cinnamon. It’s actually very interesting to note all of the differences. Don’t worry if yours just smells tangy and not very “exotic.” Totally normal. The aroma all depends on what’s in the jar and how it’s cared for.

9.)What Happens If There’s Mold Growing On My Starter?

If you see mold, get rid of it!

In all my years of baking, I’ve never had a problem with mold. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. In fact, several of you have emailed me regarding mold (oddly enough you’re all from eastern Australia. Weather issues?).

Mold can occur on the surface of the starter or on the jar itself. Its appearance can range from white and fluffy, to dark greenish brown, and even pink.

What gives?

Here’s what I know about mold: mold spores are everywhere. And it takes a perfect storm of variables (food, temperature, and water) to populate its growth. So, think about your current environment: is your starter jar near a fruit bowl (food source)? Is your current climate on the humid side (mold loves this kind of weather)? Are you using tap water (where trace chemicals and chlorine can be found)?

Because we all live in different environments it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause. But if you can troubleshoot any of the above, it might lead you in the right direction. Consider moving your starter to a different room if you think location is part of the issue.

Paired with the variables above, mold can also occur if your starter hasn’t been fed often enough. Consider feeding it more frequently. This will keep the naturally occurring bacteria fresh and happy.

And finally: Sometimes mold can occur when something else lands in the jar. Last summer, a fly got stuck in my starter and the whole thing turned pink (not the fly, the starter). I’m not sure if the pinkish color was true mold or just a result of the unfortunate casualty. Either way, it’s something to pay attention to.

10.) How Do I Get Rid Of Fruit Flies?!

Short answer: you can’t.

When summer rolls around, get used to seeing fruit files because they LOVE sourdough starters. Love. Love. Love. It’s hard to prevent a fleet of flies swarming the jar but there’s a few things you can do.

First, make sure your starter is not near any fruit (for obvious reasons). Second, just relocate it. Sometimes, I keep mine in my bedroom and completely out of the kitchen where the main food sources reside- my husband thinks this is totally weird. Third, keep the lid on. This will not keep out the flies completely but it will help especially after you’ve moved the jar out of the kitchen.

If you have additional ideas on this one, I’m all ears!

 11.) Can My Starter Be Used With Gluten Free Flours To Make GF Bread?

Short answer: NO

Most sourdough starters are made from wheat flour and water, so therefore it contains gluten. If you want to bake gluten free sourdough you’ll need a gluten free starter. Remember that. I get many emails asking if my starter can be used to create gluten free sourdough, and it’s just not the real deal.

12.) If I Forget To Feed My Starter, Is It Going To Die?

Short answer: NO

No matter what I tell you here, the first time your starter gives you trouble, or it’s taking forever to rise, or whatever, you’re going to think it’s dead. I guarantee it. The Internet has scared people into thinking if your starter doesn’t rise instantly with a trillion bubbles on the surface, it’s completely broken and will never be usable again. EVER.

Please have a little faith. I have a starter that’s been siting in my fridge for over 1 year, unfed. I forgot it was even in there. After transferring it to a new jar, feeding it for several days in a warm spot, and just being patient, guess what?! It was still ALIVE!!! That’s all you have to do if you suspect your starter needs a little love. Starters are resilient creatures which require practice and patience.

Which brings me to my last point (hooray!)…

13.) Be Patient.

This is THE hardest tip to follow. But it’s undoubtedly the most important.

Who has patience these days when we have access to whatever we want on demand? Sourdough will teach you all about patience whether you like it or not. You can’t rush it. There are no shortcuts. No cheat sheets. Again, like parenting, eventually your 2-year-old will sleep through the night. 

So, please read through these tips slowly and carefully and see what troubleshooting factors apply to your personal situation. Some days you’ll have a beautiful bubbly starter and other days it will act like a diva. And just remember: it’s usually a combination of factors that contribute to sourdough starter issues. Your starter behaves this way not to make your life miserable; it just wants you to pay attention. Take your time, feed it a million times if you have to, move it to a warmer spot, and just honor the relationship. It’s the only way you’ll learn.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

My intent with this post was to include enough information to satiate your questions, without making you feel exhausted. Believe me, this topic can go on for ages- there’s just so many scenarios. Feel free to comment below with additional thoughts and tips. Based on your feedback, I will make periodic updates to keep this post fresh and relevant! Happy baking, friends :)

The post Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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I remember trekking down a muddy mountain with my cousin after a long summer hike.

We were starving, and naturally, we were chatting about where we should go for lunch after our descent. I mentioned a few local places (I totally wanted a beer and a burger with ALL the toppings), but quickly caught myself asking her: “Can you even eat anything at restaurants these days?”

My cousin is newly vegan. When eating at non-vegan restaurants, it’s been difficult for her to find something on the menu that’s not just a bunch of leaves and mealy tomatoes on a plate. To my question she replied: “There’s always French Fries.”

Of course! French Fries. Who doesn’t love thin, salty, crispy French Fries?

But seriously? For your main meal?

One of the greatest pleasures in life is enjoying a fabulous meal out, and to think that French Fries could be your only option is such a buzzkill. I’m not a vegan myself, but this conundrum got me thinking about the real issue at hand: is it that hard to offer something substantial (and creative!) for those looking to follow a plant-based lifestyle?

Of course it’s not; it’s all about awareness.

And that’s why I’m excited to share Gena’s new book with you today.

Full disclosure: Power Plates is the first vegan cookbook I’ve ever owned.

I never thought plant-based eating applied to me because I’m not a self-proclaimed vegan. Which is silly. You know why? After a few weeks of tracking my meals in a little notebook on my desk, I realized that a substantial chunk was naturally vegan. I just wasn’t aware of it.

My meals would include: oatmeal with almond milk; grain salads with chickpeas, roasted veggies and a mustardy balsamic dressing; risottos of all kinds; sourdough wraps with creamy hummus and black olives. Even cauliflower bolognese.

How many of you have found yourself in the same “unconsciously vegan” boat too?

Power Plates features over 100 nutritionally balanced, one-dish vegan meals. Whether you’re a conscious vegan or not, everything looks so vibrant and inspiring I promise you, the selections will not disappoint.

From Apple Ginger Museli, to Harvest Bowls with Spelt Berries, and Creamy Curried Lentils and Quinoa, each recipe is carefully balanced with some plant-based protein, some fat, and some complex carbs. You won’t have to worry about going hungry, that’s for sure!

There’s even a helpful meal planning section so you can make the most of your time, especially during busy weeknights. You know I’m all about that! I’ve chosen this share this easy, Italian-style spinach and gnocchi with white beans which is ready in under 30 minutes.

To begin, bring a pot of water to a boil. While that’s going, slice up some shallots and garlic. Then saute in olive oil with juicy sundried tomatoes and white beans until everything is tender. I love using the little Northern white beans for this dish.

Once the veggies are tender, add some baby spinach leaves to the skillet. Continue to saute until the leaves are just wilted. At this point the water should be boiling, so now’s the time to drop your gnocchi into the pot.

I’m using the vegan potato gnocchi from Trader Joe’s which you can find in their pasta aisle. And! They only take 3 minutes to cook.

Okay, so when the gnocchi are done, just add them to the skillet with the spinach. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar (yum!), and season nicely with salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir and voilà! Dinner is served!

You’ll love the straightforward flavors of the balsamic and sun-dried tomatoes, and the soft pillowy texture from the gnocchi. This would be really good with some black olives, too (the cured wrinkly black ones- I love those!).

PS: one of the things you’ll notice while making this dish is that the gnocchi are nice and starchy. When you stir them around in the skillet, their natural starches thicken any pan juices, like the balsamic and the residual liquid from the spinach, which creates a really nice sauce.

Whether you’re a true vegan, or someone just looking to change up a few of their weeknight dinners, my hope is that this post will continue to spread the awareness of healthy, plant-based eating.

Just look at this gnocchi dish- all you need are a few panty items and it’s ready in no time. Perhaps a few non-vegan restaurants will take a cue from Gena and offer a few creative power plates of their own!

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY at the bottom of this post! Enjoy friends!

Spinach and Gnocchi with White Beans
Reprinted with permission from Power Plates, copyright © 2018by Gena Hamshaw. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Author: adapted from Power Plates, by Gena Hamshaw
Serves: 4
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
 (I used 1 fat clove)
  • 12 sun-dried tomato halves (oil-packed or dry-packed), coarsely chopped
  • 5 ounces (140 g) baby spinach
11⁄2 cups (270 g) cooked cannellini or Great Northern beans, or 1 (15-oz, or 425-g) can, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound (450 g) vegan gnocchi
 (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Cheesy Hemp Seed Topping (you can find this on page 89 in the book) or vegan parmesan, chopped fresh basil, red pepper flakes
    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
    2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach; you may need to do this in batches. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through.
    3. When the water is boiling, stir in the gnocchi. Adjust the heat to maintain a low boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until the gnocchi are floating on the surface of the water and are tender. Drain, reserving 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of the cooking water, then stir the gnocchi into the spinach mixture, along with 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar.
    4. If the mixture is dry, add some of the reserved gnocchi cooking water. Season with salt and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. You may wish to add as much as 1 tablespoon more balsamic vinegar.
    5. Serve right away, with any desired toppings.

    **One lucky winner will receive a copy of Gena Hamshaw’s Power Plates!**

    To Enter: Comment below describing your favorite plant-based dish!

    Rules: Contest open to US residents only. Timeframe will run for two weeks

    And… here’s a bonus recipe!

    Another winner from Power Plates is this delicious Spring Pea Panzanella. It’s made with mixed greens, marinated artichoke hearts, peas, asparagus, and a lemony-dill vinaigrette. Oh! And sourdough baguette croutons. I’ve served this alongside the gnocchi and they were a big hit. You can find the full recipe in her book.

    “Veganism has opened my eyes to how diverse and satisfying salads can be. My favorite salad recipes aren’t dainty piles of greens that live on appetizer plates; they’re big, bold, abundant dishes, hearty enough to fill a pasta bowl”. -Gena Hamshaw

    The post Spinach and Gnocchi with White Beans from Power Plates + a Giveaway appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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    Imagine this: you’ve got a beautiful bubbly starter, you’re ready to make the dough, and everything is all set for an overnight rise on the kitchen counter.

    Easy, right? You’ve followed the recipe to a T! Nothing could go wrong. Except, when you wake up the following morning the dough has barely risen at all. Maybe only a few inches. The dough is cold, dense, and sort of lifeless (just like your mood).

    What gives?

    First, what you’re experiencing is totally normal. We’ve all been there no matter how easy the recipe might be. Just ask any baker. In my experience however, temperature is usually the main culprit and luckily there are ways to control it.

    But first, you’ll need to consider (and rule out) additional culprits that like to throw a wrench in your rise time game. Sourdough is like a web; each step is connected to the next and when troubleshooting, it’s never just ‘one thing’ that causes your bread to flop. You have to consider how each strand works together and what happens to the bigger picture when something goes wrong.

    Trouble Shooting Steps 1.) Test Your Starter

    First, let’s talk about your sourdough starter. If it lacks power and vibrancy, your bread won’t rise. So, how can you test to be sure it’s okay?

    After giving it a good feed, it’s ready to use when it shows all of the following signs:

    • doubled in bulk size (use a rubber band to track its growth as it begins to rise and fall).
    • bubbles on the surface and throughout the culture.
    • spongy texture similar to roasted marshmallows.

    You can find more info regarding sourdough starters, ongoing care, FAQ in my book (p 16-23).

    Once your starter shows all of the signs, make sure it passes the float test. To do the test, drop 1 tsp. of the starter into a glass of water; if it floats to the top it’s strong and ready to use.

    The more you get to know your starter the more it will ‘speak’ to you, and eventually you’ll bypass this test altogether.

    2.) Check The Temperature (room temperature + environmental)

    Assuming your starter is ready to use, the next step is to address the temperature.

    As mentioned above, temperature is usually the culprit when your dough is taking forever to rise. Why? Because temperature controls time.

    Simply put: if the weather is cold, your dough will take longer to rise. It the weather is warm, your dough will rise faster. This applies to ALL bread recipes, so get used to it and be flexible! As a guideline however, bakers will often provide a specific temperature with an approximate rise time to help you out. Let me give you an example.

    For the purpose of this post, let’s use my Everyday Sourdough from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. The approximate rise time is 8-10 + hours at room temperature, defined at 70 F.

    So, what does this rise time and temperature mean exactly?

    Let’s say it’s winter in New York, and the temperature is about -20 F outside. Your thermostat is set to 70 F inside. You’ve made the dough, let it rise overnight on the kitchen counter at 70 F, and in the morning it has barely risen. You followed the recipe to a T! What happened?

    Here’s the deal: regardless of what your thermostat says, if it’s – 20 F outside, I can guarantee the temperature inside is not 70 F. It’s most likely colder than you think! I learned this the hard way. Drafts, poor insulation, doors opening and closing etc. will not only change your current room temperature, but it changes the temperature of the dough too. My kitchen is the coldest room in the house, so I know this all too well. Plus, if your body is cold and you’re wrapped up in 100 cable-knit sweaters, think about how the dough feels!

    In this example, you’ll need to deviate from the recipe to suit your personal environment.

    In other words, your dough needs more time to rise beyond the 8-10+ hour timeframe- it’s just too cold. And this is okay. Remember, the dough is ready when it has doubled in size. This is your visual marker. Don’t even bother baking it if it still looks dense after 10 hours. Watch the dough and not the clock.

    Conversely, if you live on an island and it’s 90 F, the dough might be ready in only 4-5 hours.

    Get it?

    While colder temperatures and extended rise times might initially frustrate you, the experience will always hand you a gift.

    It develops your intuition and leads you away from second guessing yourself. Intuition is a baker’s secret weapon. With practice and repetition, you’ll learn how to marry the variables (time, temperature, specific instructions etc.) with intuition (adjusting rise times, rising locations, and just doing your own thing ) without thinking twice.

    Trust the process, okay?

    A few more things…

    3.) Use Warm Water

    If the weather is cold and your dough won’t budge, please use warm water during the initial mixing phase. It will help to jumpstart the rising process.

    I actually use warm water 90% of the time when making dough (I tend to use cooler water in the summer). The exact water temperature doesn’t really matter in my opinion. Between 80-90 F is good. It just shouldn’t be too hot. Use your judgement.

    Also: do you store your flour in the fridge? Some people do this to prevent bugs from nesting in the bag. If you fall into this camp, remember, cold ingredients = cold dough.

    4.) Use a Proofing Box

    The only way to really keep your dough at a constant temperature free of drafts and fluctuations is to use a proofing box.

    If you’re unfamiliar, proofing boxes are basically like mini green houses for your dough. You can set the box to your desired temperature and go about your day (or night) worry free. Except, they’re really not so mini come to think of it.

    These boxes are about the size of a microwave, they take up prime counter space, and worst of all- they are not cheap! I have a proofing box that collapses flat for easy storage, but it cost over $150.

    So, if a proofing box is not an option for you, there’s an easy a way to create a bootleg version at home.

    To do so, adjust your oven to the lowest setting (mine is 200 F). Once it’s ready, shut it off. Stick an oven thermometer inside and wait for the temperature to drop to about 75-80F. Then place your dough inside (the bowl must be oven-proof, and a damp cloth should rest over the top to prevent a skin from forming on the dough). Allow to the dough rise in this warm, somewhat controlled environment until it has doubled in size. You can also use this tip for the dough’s second rise too.

    Note: Please make sure your oven does not go above 8o F. If the temperature is too hot, many things can happen that might wreck your dough. For example, extreme heat + cold dough creates excessive condensation, which leads to a wet and sticky texture. Wet and sticky dough is difficult to work with and shape. In fact, you might have to shape the dough more than once if it’s spreading too much.

    Extreme temperature can also lead to over-proofed dough, if the bowl is left inside of the oven for too long. And finally, too much heat might kill your starter power, resulting in flat and dense loaves.

    I’ve experienced all of the above factors and it’s really frustrating. My best advice? Please monitor your dough when it’s inside of the oven so you have an idea of what’s going on- all ovens are different, all doughs are different. Eventually, you’ll get a sense of how long the dough will take to rise and you’ll be able to make better adjustments as you continue to observe.

    ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  

    So, let’s re-imagine this scenario once more: you’ve got a beautiful bubbly starter, you’re ready to make the dough, and everything is all set for an overnight rise on the kitchen counter.

    This time, you know it’s freezing cold outside and you have a hunch the dough might not be ready in the morning. Low and behold, you are correct.

    Quick to think, the following morning you create a proofing box using the oven trick mentioned above. In just a few hours the dough is soft, supple, and double in size.


    Once the dough is baked, you slice a piece of warm, crusty bread at just the right moment and inhale the aroma that has come from your creation.

    Go ahead, slather on some salted butter and revel in your newfound accomplishment!

    The post Why Won’t My Sourdough Rise? {and what you can do to fix it} appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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    Ahh… cinnamon rolls.

    Soft, feathery scrolls of luscious sweet dough filled with swirls and swirls of cinnamon sugar… I mean c’mon people! This is what cozy Christmas mornings are made of!

    I must confess however, I wasn’t always a fan.

    Traditional cinnamon rolls were always too sweet for my taste and all that heavy, sugary glaze made me want to wallpaper my bathroom instead of eat it. And plus, with all the recipes out there (and there are tons) I always thought to myself: does the world really need another cinnamon roll recipe? Isn’t it too cliché?

    Apparently not.

    Because interestingly enough, many of you have requested a sourdough version. And here are 3 reasons why you’ll want to make these scrumptious beauties right now:

    1. SOURDOUGH. It lends a lovely (not sour) flavor that will make you weak in the knees. Just ask my Dad- he didn’t say a word when he ate his first one.
    2. MAKE-AHEAD. I’ll give you two fool-proof schedules to fit this recipe into your busy life, including Christmas morning.
    3. EASY. You know I don’t mess around with unnecesseary steps and ingredients!

    Are you ready friends?

    Your step-by-step guide awaits!

    Okay, so first let me preface by saying this is an adaptation from my book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. I used the Sweet Dough recipe (works like a dream!) and topped it with a quick cinnamon- sugar filling. I truly believe that once you master a particular dough like this one, it makes sense to use it in other applications. Feel free to get creative.

    *BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Check out the different Baker’s Schedules at the bottom of this post. Pick one before you make the dough.

    STEP #1: Make the Dough

    I’m a huge fan of overnight doughs. This one is made in a stand mixer because the texture is tacky, and it’s just not that fun to mix by hand.

    Once the dough is made, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise overnight at room temperature until it has doubled in size. As always, rise times will vary according to room temperature and dough temperature. I made my dough at 8:00 PM and it was ready by 8:00 AM. The temperature was 67 F.

    STEP #2: Roll the Dough

    Okay, so when your dough is fully risen, the first thing you need to do is lightly oil and flour your countertop. Why? The dough won’t stick! This is THE BEST tip in the world, by the way. I use an all-natural olive oil spray from Trader Joe’s.

    Note: I’ve tested coating the surface with butter instead of oil, and it doesn’t quite work as well. If the weather is cold, the butter will harden slightly which defeats the purpose.

    After you have removed the dough from the bowl, gently stretch and fold the edges toward the center to gently deflate some of the air. Then flip the dough over, and let it rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten. It will be easier to roll out this way.

    Lightly dust the dough with flour and do the same for your rolling pin. Roll the dough into a 16 x 12-ish rectangle. This specific measurement yields approximately (8x) 1 1/2- 2-inch cinnamon rolls which will fit a 9-inch springform pan. If at any point the dough shows resistance and is no longer easy to roll, let it relax for another 10 minutes and then try again. Don’t force it. The dough will always tell you what to do.

    STEP #3: Make the Filling

    Melt some butter in a shallow pan or microwave. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Once the butter has cooled slightly, brush the entire surface of the dough, including all the sides. This will help the cinnamon-sugar mixture stick nicely.

    Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon-sugar leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Once the surface is evenly coated smooth it out with your hands. The texture will go from dry and sandy to almost wet-looking.

    STEP #4: Roll & Cut the Dough

    Using lightly oiled fingertips, working with the long side of the dough (which may seem counterintuitive), roll it into a log pressing down as you go. Take your time with this step. You want the log to be somewhat tight so that the swirls stay in tact when baked. Once you get to the end, make sure the dough is facing seam side down.

    Tip: If at any point the dough starts to stick (it tends to get warm from the heat of your hands) lightly oil or flour your fingertips, take a deep breath, and try working with it again.

    To cut the dough, portion the log into 1 1/2- 2 inch sections using an oiled knife or bench scraper. For best results, gently score the dough first so that each piece is roughly the same size. I’m the worst at eyeballing stuff like this. Scoring really helps!

    STEP #5: Let the Dough Rest

    Place the rolls into a 9-inch parchment lined springform pan and let rest for about 1-2 hours, or until the dough puffs up. I like to scrunch the parchment into a ball first, open it up, and then line the pan. It tends to stay more snug this way.

    Before Resting…

    After Resting…

    FREEZE- AHEAD OPTION: You can also freeze the dough at this point. After you cut the dough, skip the resting step and place the rolls onto a parchment lined sheet pan, a few inches apart. Freeze until solid and then transfer to a container or ziplock bag. When ready to use, arrange the rolls in a lined pan, cover with plastic wrap, and thaw overnight at room temperature (8-12 hours). In the morning they should be bulked up and puffy, and ready to bake straight away.

    STEP #6: Bake the Rolls

    Place the dough onto the center rack and bake @ 350 for 40-45 minutes. The tops should be light golden brown and the internal temperature should read 190 F. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.

    OPTIONAL STEP: While the rolls are cooling make the glaze. Add softened butter, whipped cream cheese, and sifted powdered sugar to a bowl. Beat with a hand held mixer until smooth, thinning out the consistency with a little milk as needed.

    STEP #7: Enjoy!

    To serve, lightly dust the cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar (my preference) or top with some of the glaze.

    Close your eyes and take a bite… the warm, caramelized cinnamon sugar is absolutely out-of-this-world! And all that fluffy dough?

    It’s a Christmas miracle!

    ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

     *Baker’s Schedules:

    1.) General Overnight Option for Any Day of the Week: Make the dough in the evening and let rise overnight. The following morning, roll, cut, and rest the dough for 1-2 hours. Bake straight away. As an alternative, after resting for 1 hour, cover the dough and chill until ready to bake later in the day. Return to room temperature before baking.

    2.) Freeze-Ahead for Christmas Morning or Holiday Brunch Option: Follow Steps #1-#5 above and use the Freeze-Ahead option (outlined in Step #5). For example, if Christmas Day falls on a Monday, on Sunday night, arrange rolls in a parchment lined pan, cover with plastic wrap, and thaw overnight at room temperature (8-12 hours). Bake on Christmas morning. Note: this schedule can be adjusted to suit your desired bake day of the week.

    How to Make Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls {a step-by-step guide}
    Author: Emilie Raffa adapted from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple
    Serves: 8 rolls
    For the Sweet Dough
    • 160 g (2/3 cup) milk, whole or 2%
    • 42 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, divided + plus more for coating.
    • 1 large egg
    • 100 g (1/2 cup) bubbly, active starter
    • 24 g (2 tbsp) sugar
    • 300 g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
    • 3 g (1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
    • cooking spray or oil, for coating
    For the Filling
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 3 tsp cinnamon
    For the Glaze
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • ⅓ cup whipped cream cheese, room temperature
    • ¼- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (add more if you like it sweet!)
    • 1-2 tbsp milk
    1. Before you start: have a look at the Baker's Schedules above and choose one to suit your preference.
    2. STEP #1: Make the Dough
    3. In the evening, warm the milk and 28 g (2 tbsp) butter in a shallow pan or microwave. Cool slightly before using.
    4. Add the egg, starter, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix to combine using the paddle attachment. With the machine running, slowly pour in the warm milk mixture. Add the flour and salt, and continue mixing until a rough dough forms, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
    5. After the dough has rested, switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed for 6-8 minutes (I use #2 or #3 on my stand mixer). The dough should be soft and pull away from the sides of the bowl when ready. If it seems very sticky (although it should be tacky), add just a sprinkle of flour to incorporate.
    6. Transfer the dough to a medium bowl, coated in butter. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for another 30 minutes. After resting, grab a portion of the dough and stretch and fold it toward the center of the bowl. Repeat this 4 times, turning the bowl as you go. This will aerate the dough and make it feel soft and supply. Cover again, and let rise overnight at room temperature until double in size. This can take anywhere from 8-12 hours or more.
    7. STEP #2: Roll the Dough
    8. The following morning, lightly oil and flour your countertop to prevent sticking. Gently coax the dough out of the bowl. Stretch and fold the edges toward the center to gently deflate some of the air. Using floured fingertips, flip the dough over, give it a nice pat, and let it rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten. It will be easier to roll out this way.
    9. Line an 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to hang over the sides for easy removal.
    10. Lightly dust the surface of your dough with flour and then do the same for your rolling pin. Roll the dough into a 16 x 12-ish rectangle to yield (8x) 1½- 2-inch cinnamon rolls. If at any point the dough shows resistance and is no longer easy to roll, let it relax for another 10 minutes and then try again.
    11. STEP #3: Make the Filling
    12. Melt some butter in a shallow pan or microwave. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Once the butter has cooled slightly, brush the entire surface of the dough, including all the sides. Using your hands, sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.
    13. STEP #4: Roll & Cut the Dough
    14. Using lightly oiled fingertips, working with the long side of the dough (16-inch), roll it up pressing down as you go. Take your time with this step. You want the log to be somewhat tight so that the swirls stay in tact when baked. Once you get to the end, make sure the dough is facing seam side down. If at any point the dough starts to stick (it tends to get warm from the heat of your hands) lightly oil or flour your fingertips, take a deep breath, and try working with it again.
    15. To cut the dough, portion the log into 1½- 2 inch sections using a oiled knife or bench scraper. My rolls were 2 inches. For best results, gently score the dough first so that each piece is roughly the same size.
    16. STEP #5: Let the Dough Rest
    17. Place the rolls into an 9-inch parchment lined springform pan and let rest for about 1-2 hours, or until the dough puffs up. I like to scrunch the parchment into a ball first, open it up, and then line the pan. It tends to stay more snug this way.
    18. NOTE: You can also freeze the dough at this point. After you cut the dough, skip the resting step and place the rolls onto a parchment lined sheet pan, a few inches apart. Freeze until solid and then transfer to a container or ziplock bag. When ready to use, arrange the rolls in a lined pan, cover with plastic wrap, and thaw overnight at room temperature (8-12 hours). In the morning they should be bulked up and puffy, and ready to bake straight away.
    19. STEP #6: Bake the Rolls
    20. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place the dough onto the center rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. The tops should be light golden brown and the internal temperature should read 190 F. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.
    21. Optional step: While the rolls are cooling make the glaze. Add softened butter, whipped cream cheese, and sifted powdered sugar to a bowl. Beat with a hand held mixer until smooth, thinning out the consistency with a little milk as needed. The ingredients must be soft and at room temperature for best results!
    22. STEP #7: Enjoy!
    23. To serve, lightly dust the top with powdered sugar (my preference) or top with some of the glaze. These rolls are best enjoyed slightly warm and on the same day they are baked.


    The post How to Make Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls {a step-by-step guide} appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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    I never thought I’d bake bagels at home.

    Why bother when you can just buy a dozen from the store on Sunday morning? I’m from New York where we have access to some of THE BEST bagels in the world!

    After creating and testing hundreds of recipes for Artisan Sourdough Made Simple I had a change of heart.

    Turns out, the fuss of making bagels was all in my head. The process is surprisingly therapeutic, the results are tastier than store-bought (when is the last time you even had a sourdough bagel?), and the dough itself is super easy to handle for many reasons:

    • a.) you don’t have to knead it.
    • b.) it’s so dry, you can basically shape it however you want.
    • c.) if you mess up just let it rest and try again.

    And that boiling part you’re secretly dreading?

    Yes, yes, yes, you need to boil the bagels prior to baking to set the crust… but it’s easy! If you can make ravioli you can boil bagels at home.

    So here we are, with a brand new recipe which is a twist on my Sunday Morning Bagels from the book.

    For this version, I added pumpkin puree to the dough. This doesn’t make the bagels taste like pumpkin, it’s more for color and autumnal ambiance. What really gives these bagels that quintessential pumpkin taste is the topping!

    After the dough is boiled and baked, the bagels are lightly brushed with butter and dipped into a mixture of pumpkin spice and sugar. Also: these bagels are mini. Do I really need to say anything else?!

    Here’s a step-by-step break down on how to do it:

    Step #1: Make the Dough

    It’s best to break this recipe up over two days: start the dough on Saturday evening, let rise overnight, and finish on Sunday morning.

    For overnight recipes, I’ll start mixing the dough anywhere between 5-8 PM the day before. In winter, I’ll make the dough between 5- 6 PM when I know it will take longer to rise. In spring and summer when the weather is warm and the dough will rise faster, I’ll push the start time to 7-8 PM, sometimes even 9 PM. You’ll have to play around this depending on where you live.

    Either way, sourdough rise times will always depend on the temperature of your specific environment and the nature of how your starter performs- I cannot stress this enough. You’re not working with predictable rapid-rise yeast where the dough will be ready in 2 hours! Be patient. Flexible. And always watch the dough (not the clock).

    The picture above shows what my dough looked like in the morning. It actually rose way too much! My bagels turned out mighty fine regardless, so don’t worry if your dough gets really excited like mine ;)

    Step #2: Cut & Weigh 

    The next step is to remove the dough onto a non-floured surface.

    This dough is so dry, you don’t need any extra flour to prevent sticking. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces for mini bagels. For best results, I highly suggest weighing the dough so that all of your bagels will be approximately the same size. Mine were about 57 g each.

    Note: if you prefer standard size bagels, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces or about 114 g each.

    Step #3: Shape the Dough

    Shaping bagels is a two step process.

    First, you’ll need to create little balls. Take one piece of dough and gather the ends towards the center (you can pinch them or push them down, if you want). Flip the dough over, and then roll it into a ball using the palm of your hand.

    Place onto a parchment lined sheet pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Rest for 15+ minutes to relax the gluten.

    The second step is to create a bagel shape.

    To do this, poke your finger through the center of the dough. Then gently stretch the opening to about the size of a walnut. Place back onto the lined sheet pan. Rest for another 15-20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line a second sheet pan with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.

    Step #4: Boil the Bagels

    Okay, so this is probably the scariest part for most of you. I totally get it. But don’t worry, it’s really easy.

    Once the bagels have finished resting, using your hands, gently lower 2-3 pieces into the boiling water- they won’t stick together. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer if the boil is too high. Cook for 30 seconds on each side; I use tongs to easily flip them over.

    Then, using a slotted spoon transfer the bagels back onto the lined sheet pan you used earlier, rounded side up (the sheet pan will get wet). Make sure to have that second lined sheet pan ready for the rest of your bagels.

    By the way, it’s completely normal for your bagels to look bumpy and weird after you boil them. The surface will smooth out once they are baked.

    Isn’t that rich pumpkin color gorgeous?

    Step #5: Bake the Bagels

    The next step is to pop the boiled dough into the oven. You can bake both trays at one time, however I prefer to alternate them on the center rack.

    Baking time should run for about 16-18 minutes @ 425F for mini bagels. They should feel light and look lovely and golden when ready. Note: if you are baking 8 standard size bagels, increase the cooking time to 22-25 minutes.

    Meanwhile, melt some butter and set aside in a small bowl. Combine about 1/2 cup of sugar and pumpkin spice (to taste) in a shallow bowl for your topping.

    Step #6: Coat the Bagels 

    This is the fun part!

    So, working with one bagel at a time brush the rounded surface with some of the melted butter. Get the sides too. If you don’t have a brush, use a folded paper towel or napkin. Then roll and press the bagel into the sugar mixture.


    OMG! Don’t you just want to stick your finger in that sugar?

    These are soooooo good you have no idea! Seriously. Just wait until you try them! I ate one and completely burned my mouth but it was SO worth it!

    Here’s a shot of what the inside looks like… So soft and perfectly chewy!

    You can eat them plain, like little warm rolls straight from the oven. Or slice and serve with softened butter or cream cheese.


    Helpful Tips
    • Bagel dough is typically very stiff and dry. So, when you go to mix it by hand and it seems like a workout, you’re on the right track! Feel free to use a stand mixer if you have one. See recipe instructions below.
    • When stretching out the center of each bagel to create a hole, it might shrink back slightly after resting. This is not a problem. Right before boiling them, gently re-stretch the opening and then lower into the water.
    • If the bagels are boiled for too long, the crust will be thicker. I prefer about 30 seconds on each side (although I do not time this with a clock- just in my head!) and it creates a nice crispy, crackly crust.
    • These bagels are best enjoyed FRESH! Eat them on the same day! Otherwise, the moisture from the sugar will soften the crust and they’re just not as good when that happens.

     ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

    PS: In slightly related news regarding sourdough, I have a question for you…

    Would it be helpful if I compiled a list of my favorite go-to tools for baking? For example, my favorite bread knife, flour brands, where to purchase a sourdough starter… etc? Please comment your thoughts below! This idea just popped into my head as I was wrapping up this post- thank you!

    No-knead Pumpkin Spice Sourdough Bagels
    Author: Emilie Raffa
    Serves: 16 mini bagels
    For the dough
    • 150 g (3/4 cup) bubbly, active starter
    • 200 g (about ¾ cup + 2 level tbsp) pumpkin puree
    • 24 g (2 level tbsp) sugar
    • 100 g (1/3 cup + 1½ tbsp) warm water
    • 500 g (4 cups + 2 tbsp) bread flour
    • 9 g (1½ tsp) fine sea salt
    • Cooking spray, for coating
    • small dollop of honey
    For the Topping
    • ½ cup sugar
    • pumpkin spice, to taste
    Note: These bagels are best served fresh and eaten on the same day they are baked. Otherwise, the sugar will moisten the surface of the bagels.
      1. Start in the evening: In a large bowl, add the starter, pumpkin puree, sugar, and water. Whisk with a fork to combine. Add the flour and salt. Continue mixing until the dough becomes stiff; then finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the flour. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a stand mixer and run on low speed for 4-6 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
      2. After the dough has rested, work it into a semi-smooth ball directly in the bowl, about 15-20 seconds. You'll notice the dough is still stiff, but much softer than it was earlier. Cover with a damp towel and let rise overnight, about 10+ hours @ 68 F. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size.
      3. In the morning: Remove the dough onto a non-floured work surface. Flatten into a rectangle and cut into 16 equal pieces, about 57 g each for mini bagels (or 8 pieces, appx. 114g, for standard size bagels).
      4. Working with one dough at a time, gather the ends toward the center, flip it over, and then roll into a ball using the palm of your hand. Place onto a parchment lined sheet pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Let rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten.
      5. To shape into bagels, poke your finger through the center of each dough ball. Lift up the dough and stretch the opening to about the size of a walnut. Place back onto your sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 15- 20 minutes.
      6. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the honey and whisk to dissolve. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C). Line a second sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.
      7. Add 2-3 bagels into the pot and wait for them to float; they will most likely float right away. If not, wait about 10 seconds or so. Simmer for 30 seconds on each side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bagels back onto the sheet pan you used earlier (you will also use the second lined sheet pan for this). Repeat boiling the rest of the bagels.
      8. Bake one sheet pan of bagels on the center rack for 16-18 minutes. The bagels should be golden brown and feel light to the touch when ready (22-25 minutes for standard size bagels). When finished, bake the second sheet pan.
      9. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside in a small bowl. Add the sugar and pumpkin spice (to taste) in a shallow bowl.
      10. When the bagels are cool enough to handle, brush the rounded surface and sides with some of the butter. Press the bagels into the sugar mixture to coat. Repeat with the rest of the bagels.
      11. Serve warm or at room temperature. These bagels are best served fresh.

      The post No-knead Pumpkin Spice Sourdough Bagels appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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      Never in a million years did I think that touching a bag of fresh pasta would magically transport me to Italy only two months later.

      Are you ready for this story?!

      One summer night, I found myself in the kitchen cooking a big pasta dinner for my family. We were up in Lake Placid on our annual summer vacation. It’s always a very lively trip; my cousins and their kids come along with extended family and their friends. It’s like “My Big Fat Italian Wedding” except no one is getting married (or eating lamb).

      On the menu was fresh tagliatelle with a simple tomato sauce. Right before adding the pasta into the pot I looked at the bag (the brand was Giovanni Rana- remember that name!) and thought to myself, I hope this is going to be good!

      What I didn’t realize however, was that things were about to get really good.

      The next day, at exactly 3:24 PM I received an email.

      You’ll never believe who it was from…


      Well, not the actual pasta man himself; it was from one of their brand reps looking to connect. The email was also an invitation to ITALY! They invited me for a 3-day trip of a lifetime to completely immerse myself in the city of Verona, the birthplace of the Rana pasta brand.

      Ah, yes please!

      And that is how my serendipitous adventure began.

      Day 1

      The minute I stepped off the plane into the Rome airport, I was so tired I didn’t even know what day it was.

      My eyes were so dry and scratchy they felt like sandpaper. I was thinking about coffee and what kind of food they had at the airport. Two espressos and one lukewarm cappuccino later (served with a tiny, individually wrapped square of dark chocolate!) I was little miss chatter box ready to rock and roll! I get along famously with caffeine.

      I jumped on a quick connecting flight to Verona. Once I arrived at my hotel, I had a few hours to myself to explore the city. The scenery was exactly as I imagined: beautiful terracotta buildings, balconies with gorgeous hanging flowers, couples making out under fountains, gelaterias on every corner- I was in heaven. I could’ve have spent one whole day just walking around taking pictures… and eating, obviously.

      Day 2

      The next day we visited a lovely hilltop winery with a view that overlooked the city. You can’t beat Friday morning wine tasting!

      For lunch, we enjoyed a four-course pasta meal featuring Giovanni Rana’s Skillet Gnocchi, Chicken Mozzarella Tortellini and even a special-made chocolate and custard fried ravioli stuffed with warm, molten chocolate for dessert. The food was so good it hurt. The chef came out and explained each dish as though passion was his secret ingredient, which I’m sure it was and I loved that. The regional wines paired with each dish were delicious, too.

      Day 3

      This was by far my favorite day and the most jam packed!

      The day began with a tour of the Giovanni Rana pasta factory, fueled by two early morning espressos and a whole-grain croissant spiked with flax seeds (Italy, I love you).

      We couldn’t bring our cameras inside (I felt like we were walking into the Willy Wonka factory) but all you have to know is this: there’s a reason why it’s the #1 fresh pasta brand in Italy. It’s called quality! Quality is only a product of the people who make it happen, and let me tell you the Rana family makes it happen.

      You know how I know this?

      I saw it first-hand with my very own eyes. Their employees have to pass rigorous quality control tests, like smelling and tasting certain ingredients and then having to identify them. And, equally as important they also have to have passion. Period. No passion, no job. PS: it was Saturday when we visited the factory and everyone there was smiling and waving at us! How’s that for some work/life balance?

      After the tour, we attended a pasta making class (see black and white pics above). I got to work with the freshest baby spinach I’ve ever touched, creamy, pale yellow mascarpone cheese, and the king of all cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano freshly grated off the wheel itself.

      You know, before going on this trip I used to think ravioli and tortellini were filled with some kind of dense mystery paste. But because I actually got to see the production process and then make some ravioli for myself, my whole perception of filled pasta changed. I could actually taste the spinach in the ravioli, the filling was light and creamy, and the color of the spinach managed to stay bright green even after it was cooked (because we all know what overcooked spinach looks like…).

      After the pasta class, we took a trip to the Rana family villa in Lake Garda for a food-styling workshop.


      So, imagine this: the most gorgeous rooms filled with the perfect light, antique props (separated by color and style!) and tables and tables filled with the freshest Italian ingredients your eyes ever did see. This included assorted Italian cheeses, fresh grapes, all kinds of seafood, chestnuts in their spiny shells, lobster, beautiful autumnal squash, chili peppers, plump figs, the juiciest lemons with their pretty green leaves attached- I cannot even begin to describe the scene to you. I think my heart stopped beating at one point.

      And the view!

      Did I mention we got to gaze out of this stunning window while we worked?

      This truly was a trip of a lifetime.

      But before I wrap it all up, I want to tell you about the Rana family story and how their business came to be. Warning: it might make you want to quit your day job in pursuit of cultivating your inner most passion!

      Mr. Giovanni Rana, who just turned 80 (and also the most adorable man ever besides my Grandpa) got the idea for his business when he was only 13 years old. At the time, he was working with his brother in a bakery. He made the bread dough and then delivered the loaves on his bicycle to the local shops. As he became familiar with the clientele, he also became familiar with an apparent growing need for something else: fresh pasta. You see, this need was developing back in the 50’s when women were entering the workforce and spending less time in the kitchen.

      And so, for little Giovanni the lightbulb went off. In addition to making bread, he started to make and sell fresh pasta. The concept took off and it was very well received. When Mr. Giovanni eventually met his wife, their business expanded into a love story- he continued to make the pasta dough while she made the fillings for the stuffed pastas, like ravioli and tortellini.

      And the rest is fresh pasta history.

      Now, Mr. Giovanni’s son Gian Luca (CEO of the company) passionately continues the story and runs the business in Italy, in Europe, and most recently in the U.S.

      ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

      The biggest take away for me on this trip wasn’t necessarily about the pasta.

      It wasn’t about the Giovanni Rana fame and fortune. In fact, if there was an ego lurking in the room I couldn’t find it. For me, it was all about love. A love for ingredients, a love for quality, a love for people who are driven by passion, pride, culture, and most of all (if not the greatest of all) a love for family.

      It’s evident that love has defined the Rana success story because it encompasses a product so unique you can not only taste it, but it’s one that you can actually feel. I certainly felt it. And when you feel something you can’t help but want to share, right? Even when I came home to New York and I told my friends and family all about my trip, they would send me pictures of themselves in the grocery store holding up a package of Giovanni Rana ravioli with big smiles!

      What I’ve gained from this experience is that whether it’s a new recipe, a relationship, or even a strand of fresh tagliatelle simmering in a pan of simple tomato sauce- with just a little bit of love (and serendipity!) everything grows.

      The Recipe

      The Italians might be famous for pasta, but they’re also famous for the art of restraint. Specifically, I’m referring to how they respect their ingredients. You won’t find big old bowls of penne drowning in meat sauce… just a little bit of pasta with a spoonful of sauce is how they do it. When I visited the pasta factory, one of my most memorable moments was sampling a chunk (or two!) of fresh Pecorino Romano cheese right off the wheel. It was nutty and only lightly salty- I’m actually salivating as I type this. So, I took a nod from the Italians and created a dish that’s all about the pasta. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare. Plus, as an added bonus, Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle includes egg in their recipe which makes this dish more nutritionally substantial than if using dried pasta. It’s perfect for an easy meal any night of the week.

      PS: My serendipitous trip to Italy was proudly sponsored by the passionate Giovanni Rana family. As always, I’m happy to write, share, and cook with the products I love. Thank you for your continued support.

      As a special gift, we’re offering a special coupon code to purchase anyone of these delicious pastas! Click here and enter: MNTWGPN86T.

      Fresh Tagliatelle with Pecorino
      Cook time
      10 mins
      Total time
      10 mins
      Author: Emilie Raffa
      Serves: 2-4
      • 1x 9 oz. bag of Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle
      • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
      • ½ cup fresh Pecorino Romano, grated
      • black pepper, to taste
      1. In a medium pot, bring 2½ quarts of water to a boil. Cook the pasta for only 2 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy cooking liquid and then drain the pasta in a colander.
      2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Add ¼ cup of the reserved starchy pasta liquid and whisk well to combine.
      3. Add the pasta to the pan and toss with tongs to coat all of the strands. Add a splash more of the reserved cooking liquid if the sauce seems too dry. Sprinkle with some of the cheese. Finish with black pepper to taste, and serve right away.

      The post a serendipitous trip to Italy appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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      I love Ina Garten.

      If there’s one chef I’d be so lucky to have dinner with it would be the Barefoot Contessa herself (and Jamie Oliver, of course).

      You think they’d get along?

      Seriously though, every one of her recipes are meticulously tested, they taste amazing, and I can tell you personally she’s the nicest (and I mean the nicest) person ever. My cousin makes a version of her meatballs and they are so, so good. I think it’s the nutmeg…

      But enough celebrity crush talk for now… let’s get into some brussels sprouts!

      I could eat a whole bag/stalk of brussels sprouts.

      However they come, there’s just something about their slightly nutty, almost bitter flavor that turns me into a complete addict. I know not everyone is a fan of sprouts, but Ina’s super easy and flavorful recipe will most likely change your mind.

      Ina halves the sprouts first and then coats them generously with olive oil. She also includes any stray leaves onto the sheet pan. And I’ll tell you why- they get all nice and crispy once baked and the flavor reminds me of potato chips! But so much better!

      The sprouts are roasted with pancetta ( I used salami here) and then drizzled with thick balsamic syrup to finish. It’s the perfect balance of salty/sweet/bitter flavors.

      Now, let’s talk about that balsamic syrup for a second…

      First, I had to edit my FACE out of the pan you see above. I almost didn’t catch the reflection! That would’ve been a sight (stop looking at the pan!).

      Second, there are a few different ways you can get your hands on some balsamic syrup:

      • You can buy aged balsamic which is a nice, luxurious, syrupy vinegar that’s super expensive. Like, $90/ bottle expensive.
      • You can buy a bottle of balsamic syrup itself at the store. It’s not easy to find but I know Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods carries it.
      • You can also make your own, which is what I did. It’s super easy. BUT! I burnt it the first time around because it reduced so quickly it basically turned into TAR and the whole kitchen stunk like burnt vinegar which is one of the worst smells on the planet. My poor eyes.

      To make your own syrup, just add some balsamic vinegar to a small sauté pan with a little sugar. Reduce the mixture on medium-low heat; it will only take 1-2 minutes. If you dare walk away, say to check your phone or answer the door, I promise you will pay the consequences!

      *Pro tip: If your sauce is reduced, but you’re still waiting around for the sprouts to finish roasting, it might harden slightly if your kitchen is cold. This is what happened to me. All you have to do is warm it over LOW heat with a tiny splash of water. Stir continuously until the texture loosens up.

      See? Check it out! Crispy bits! Yum!

      You absolutely need this recipe in your life right now. For the holidays. Thanksgiving. Flag day. Earth day. WHATEVER. I promise, this one will be a hit!

      Ina says so.

      Kitchen Notes

      Tips: Don’t over crowd your sheet pan; the sprouts won’t crisp at all. Work in batches if you have to.

      Substitutions: For my veggie and vegan friends, you are more than welcome to leave out the pancetta or salami; it will taste just as good. My friend Amisha puts pomegranate seeds and walnuts in hers.

      Make-Ahead: if you’re making this for a dinner party, I would suggest trimming the ends and halving the sprouts one day in advance. Store everything in a ziplock bag (beware: it will stink the next day when you open it up!). Then all you have to do is roast the sprouts the next day. Easy.

      For the pancetta, you can buy it already chopped, which is nice. I used salami because that’s what I had in my cheese drawer, which is also nice. Again, you can pre-chop whatever you’re using the day before.

      For the balsamic syrup,  I wouldn’t reduce it in advance. Make it fresh, unless you’re using syrup from the bottle.

      Ina Garten's Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
      Prep time
      5 mins
      Cook time
      25 mins
      Total time
      30 mins
      Author: adapted from Ina Garten's recipe posted on Foodnetwork.com
      Serves: serves 4-6
      For the Sprouts
      • 1½ pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved, leaves reserved
      • 4 oz pancetta, cut into ¼-inch pieces (I used 2 oz hard salami)
      • 2 tbsp- ¼ cup olive oil
      • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
      • 1 tbsp reduced balsamic syrup, or make your own (see note below)
      Homemade Balsamic Syrup
      • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
      • 1 tsp sugar
      1. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
      2. Add the sprouts and the reserved leaves to the sheet pan. Add the pancetta (or salami). Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
      3. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally for even browning.
      4. Towards the end of cooking, prepare the balsamic syrup. Pour the vinegar into a small sauté pan and sprinkle with sugar. Reduce the mixture over medium-low heat; it will only take 1-2 minutes. Keep your eye on it so it doesn't burn! You should end up with 1 tbsp of reduced syrup.
      5. When the sprouts are ready, drizzle the hot balsamic syrup directly over the pan. Toss well to combine.
      6. Serve right away.


      The post Ina Garten’s Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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      Just a quick note: I wanted to personally thank each and everyone of you for your support re: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple! It’s truly overwhelming to read all of your comments, reviews, and to see your bread pics on social media and blogs! It’s very inspiring. And the book is currently #1 on Amazon for new releases in bread baking! I couldn’t have done this without you. Please continue to use hashtag #ArtisanSourdoughMadeSimple so I can see more beautiful bakes from the book! 

      ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

      Seasonal baking: it’s one of my favorite things about sourdough.

      Here on Long Island, the leaves are changing colors, pumpkin spice everything is cluttering the stores, and all I can think about is Thanksgiving dinner (and the delicious leftovers, of course!).

      This hearty cranberry pecan sourdough is not in my book, however it’s lightly adapted from my Saturday Morning Fruit toast. It’s soft, chewy, slightly sweet… and if you toast the pecans prior to baking you’ll get an extra hit of nutty flavor which is always welcome, if you’re in the mood.

      Speaking of pecans, if you bake with them often, Costco sells huge bags of assorted nuts at a reasonable price (I can’t remember the exact cost, but check it out the next time you are in the store).

      If you prefer smaller bags of nuts, hit up Trader Joe’s and buy their ‘pecan pieces’ which cost less/ per pound than whole pecans. There’s absolutely no reason to spend more money on whole nuts; you’re going to chop them up anyway.

      The best part about this recipe is that it’s basically no-knead and the dough rises overnight.

      Your work involved? Minimum.

      Here’s the sourdough schedule I follow that you can adapt to your liking:

      • A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. The exact amount of time it will take depends on how often you feed your starter and where you store it. Warmer starters (i.e. room temperature) that are fed often (1x per day) will be ready to use faster.
      • Because this is an overnight dough, make the dough in the evening. I usually do this after dinner around 8 PM  or so.  After the initial mix, let the dough rest (autolyse) for 1 hour. Toast the pecans. Then add the pecans and cranberries to the dough.
      • Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature. Current room temperature here is 68 F (with the heat on!).
      • Between 6-7 AM the following day, the dough should be double in size.
      • Shape into a log, place in a buttered loaf pan, and let rest again for 1-2 hours.
      • Bake by 8-9 AM!

      Got all that?

      I highly suggest you make this recipe now, so you can imagine what an open faced turkey sandwich is going to taste like on this sourdough! Or perhaps a toasted slice with salted butter? French toast? Croutons?

      Happy baking everyone!

      Overnight Cranberry Pecan Sourdough
      Author: Emilie Raffa adapted from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple
      Serves: 1 loaf
      For the Dough
      • 65 g bubbly, active starter
      • 300 g warm water
      • 500 g bread flour
      • 9 g fine sea salt
      For the Fillings
      • 150 g dried cranberries
      • 50 g pecan pieces or whole pecans, roughly chopped
      • Butter for coating the pan
      1. Start in the evening: in a large bowl, whisk the starter and water together with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Continue mixing with your fork until the dough becomes stiff. Then get in there with your hands and finish mixing until the flour is fully absorbed and a rough-looking dough forms. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
      2. Meanwhile, lightly toast the pecans in a small, dry skillet. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
      3. Add the cranberries and toasted pecans to the dough. Fold the dough over the fillings several times until they are fully incorporated- this might take a little elbow grease, but don't worry it's actually fun to do!
      4. Cover the bowl with the same damp cloth you used earlier. Let the dough rise overnight at room temperature. This will take 8-12 hrs or so.
      5. In the morning, remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently dimple the surface all over to release any large air pockets. Roll the dough into a log and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter. After the dough has rested, pull it towards you to tighten its shape (use lightly floured hands if the dough is sticky). Place into your loaf pan seam side down.
      6. Cover and let rest for 1-2 hours, or until the dough rises about 1-inch above the rim of the pan.
      7. Preheat your oven to 450F. Place dough on the center rack and reduce the heat to 400 F. Bake for 45-50 minutes. If the loaf starts to brown too quickly, loosely tent with foil (some of the cranberries will burn, which is okay. Just pick them off the top before serving).
      8. Cool in the loaf pan for about 10 minutes. Then transfer the bread to a wire rack to finish cooling for 1 hour before slicing.
      9. This loaf will stay fresh for about 3 days, stored in a plastic bag. Any leftovers make great French toast!



      The post overnight cranberry pecan sourdough appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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      It’s here! It’s here!

      Artisan Sourdough Made Simple is NOW available in stores!

      If you’ve been following along, you already know about my new beginner’s guide (see this post). Please indulge me with a few final thoughts on publication day!

      If you’re curious about sourdough but feel completely overwhelmed, I always tell people this: just treat sourdough like you would any other recipe. Follow the directions and DON’T OVERTHINK IT. Anchor yourself to the process, remember to have fun, and then imagine yourself cutting into the most scrumptious, crusty loaf that will rival any bakery-style boule. That’s the secret!

      Got all that?

      Now, let’s celebrate with a video!

      Over the years, I’ve been asked to create videos on how to make easy, sourdough bread at home.

      The only problem?

      I had no clue how to do it!

      The universe must have been weighing in, because my super talented and good friend Aysegul Sanford came to my rescue and filmed my very first video!

      Without hesitation I packed up all of my gear: sourdough, flour, outfits, and drove 5 hours north to Vermont to shoot in her beautiful home. It was an absolute blast! We laughed, I think I cried a few times, she made me the best coffee… All I want to do now is create videos for the blog (but she has to shoot + edit them, lol).

      In the video, you’ll see how to make the Everyday Sourdough. We wanted to make it fun, upbeat, and realistic to give you the confidence you need to jumpstart your sourdough journey, right now. Everything you’re about to see is what I personally use to make sourdough bread at home. From the sourdough starter jar, to the 8-inch glass mixing bowl, and the unglamorous, crusted-in-dough OXO scale- it’s all the real deal.

      I hope you enjoy this visual treat as much as I do! Are you ready to start baking sourdough yet?

      Click below to purchase Artisan Sourdough Made Simple now:

      The Book Depository (FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING)
      Barnes and Noble

      Artisan Sourdough Made Simple - YouTube

      The post {Video} Artisan Sourdough Made Simple is Here! appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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      Meet Dillon, my sourdough starter.

      It’s an offspring from an 8 year old Australian starter, which was a gift from my friend Celia (you’ll read all about it in my book!) Together, we created Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. 

      If you’re new to sourdough, a starter is a live fermented culture of flour and water. Once it becomes all bubbly and active a small portion is added to your bread dough to make it rise- no commercial yeast is required. You’ll find more detailed writing and supplemental information in my book (trust me, I could go on and on!) but for now, all you need to know is this: without a starter the whole concept of sourdough baking would not exist.

      So, what type of container is best for your starter? Does it even matter? 

      In my experience, sourdough storage depends on the baker. And to be honest, I’ve never heard of a container that’s necessarily good or bad, but I’m sure you’ll get all kinds of opinions if you ask around! In fact, I love when people post their starters to Instagram or to their blog. It’s fun to see the variety.

      Here are four simple options to get you started:

      1.) Glass Jar

      This is my personal favorite. Over the years I’ve moved away from plastic containers and Tupperware out of choice. I like glass. It’s easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about any weird chemicals leaching into your starter.

      Also, because glass is clear you can see everything that’s going on inside (all the bubbles, foamy stuff, any liquid… ). This instant visual access is super important when getting to know your starter and what you can do to fix it, if necessary. I’ll never forget: over the summer a fleet of fruit flies decided to take up residence in my jar. Had I been using a solid container of some sort, I never would’ve seen them! Gross, I know.

      There are all types of glass jars you can choose from: mason jars, jam jars, latch top jars, canning jars with those metal ring tops you can never find… it’s up to you.

      Regarding jar size, it’s all relative to the amount of starter you currently have or want to maintain in the future. Your starter will grow to at least double in size, sometimes more, and you’ll need a jar to accommodate this. You can cover it loosely with a lid, plastic wrap, or even a small cloth. I go back and forth depending on my mood.

      Keep in mind, the jar might burst if the lid is on too tight which means you’ll run the risk of getting glass shards in the mixture. This happened to me once and I had to throw the whole thing out.

      2.) Plastic Container

      Although my preference is glass, I first started with a plastic container. I had no problems with it at all. From memory, I think it was a small, random BPA-free Tupperware container I unearthed from the depths of my kitchen cabinet.

      As mentioned above, I moved away from plastic. But there’s another reason why I made the switch: size.

      Most plastic containers (unless you’re using a Chinese quart container for soup) are not tall. They’re wide and squat. I didn’t like this because it was hard to tell when my starter had doubled in size, which is a visual benchmark for when it’s ready to use.

      In comparison to glass however, plastic doesn’t break; it only melts should you leave it on the bottom rack of your dishwasher ;)

      3.) Pint Jar

      When all of my glass jars are dirty or being used for something else, I use a pint glass! Yes, the kind you drink beer from at a bar. These are perfect for sourdough starters. They are nice and tall, and you can cover the top with a cloth or plastic wrap. Any type of large and tall glass will do. I have a stash in my kitchen.

      4.) Stoneware Crock

      Personally, I’ve never used this. King Arthur Flour offers large sourdough crocks which seem pretty popular. The selling point is that its material is non-reactive and the crock itself is easy to identify, so you won’t accidentally throw it out because it looks like pancake batter in a jar (see option #3). Unlike glass, I’m pretty sure these crocks do not burst easily either. Regardless, I still prefer clear containers so I can monitor what’s going on inside.

      ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

      Whatever container you choose, the trick is to play around to see what you like.

      You might begin with a certain jar only to realize that it’s particularly annoying to clean, which then motivates you to switch to something else. And this is okay. Plus, overtime your starter will form crusty bits of dried flour at the top of the container and near the lid. When this happens (and it will), you’ll need to change it out anyway. So get creative and experiment with what you have!

      So what about you? What type of container do you use for your sourdough starter?

      The post 4 Different Containers For Your Sourdough Starter appeared first on The Clever Carrot.

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