These days you’ll likely find me shuffling around the kitchen (possibly still in my pajamas), coffee in hand, flour across my brow and a smile on my face. Because there is nothing better than fall baking.
This year I’m determined to get more comfortable baking with yeast. Quick breads, scones, muffins and biscuits I can do with my eyes closed. No problemo. And I can make a pie crust LIKE A BOSS. But yeasted breads have always intimated me a bit. So I’m going to step up my bread-making game the next couple of months and master this. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
I was initially attracted to this recipe because of the flavors. Big hunks of tart cherries and toasted hazelnuts are a pretty unbeatable combination. But I was also drawn in by the technique, which involves making and using a sponge-starter. This was something new to me, so I figured if I’m ever going to “master” this whole yeasted bread thing then I better get out of my comfort zone (and maybe get out of my pajamas too).
A sponge-starter is like a lazy man’s version of a sourdough-starter. It’s a mixture of flour, water and yeast that is freshly made and then allowed to ferment overnight. It gives your bread some of the nuances that are characteristic of a sourdough loaf, but without all the babysitting and dedication required for a true sourdough-starter.
The recipe makes two good sized loaves. You can freeze one away for later or pass one along to your neighbors and rack up the karma points. Your choice. It’s excellent toasted with butter and makes great sandwiches as well.
I just realized THIS is my 200th recipe on Floating Kitchen! That’s a lot of eating and a lot of dishes. And what better way to celebrate my dishpan hands than with Maple Cream.
You all know by now that maple syrup is near and dear to my heart. Like most New Englanders, I take the whole issue of maple syrup very seriously. And when I die, you’ll have to pry that cute leaf shaped bottle from my cold, stiff hands. Real talk.
One of the most downright decadent and delicious things you can do with maple syrup is turn it into Maple Cream. Never had Maple Cream before? Then you are missing out. Maple Cream is maple syrup that has been coaxed (or if we are being more scientific, the sugars become crystallized) into a thick, spreadable cream. You can use it however you would use maple syrup. In fact, I beg you to slather some on top of your pancakes or waffles. But you can also use it for so many other things. I like to dip sliced apples or pears in it. It’s great on toast with peanut butter. Or spread it between two cookies for some homemade cookie sandwiches (it’s particularly wonderful with these Maple Ginger Snaps).
Oh and don’t forget about my most favorite way to enjoy it: straight from the spoon!
Feeling generous? Give this as a gift to the maple syrup lover in your life. The Holidays are a creeping in people.
I love me some Grade B maple syrup. Despite it’s label, I find the taste far superior to Grade A. BUT, for this recipe I recommend using Grade A. Some internet searching hinted that the process doesn’t always work with Grade B (differences in the sugar content or density maybe?). So this is probably the only time I’m ever going to say this: get yourself some Grade A for this recipe.
America’s Test Kitchen has a great tutorial with step-by-step photos of the whole process. I highly recommend reading through it before you start. And there are some great tips buried in the comments thread as well. Another tip: make sure your thermometer is accurate. You don’t want to overcook this stuff!
Oh and fair warning: your arm will get tired from all the stirring. But the little extra work out is worth it for this special treat!