Hot Cross Buns
Easter is right around the corner, which means hot cross buns and challah french toast. Okay, perhaps those two bread-y indulgences are only slightly related, but when I think of the holiday I think of those... And mini eggs... And peeps. Hot cross buns were one of the first baked goods I ever made, and were the first type of bread that I made without the help of a bread-machine. For that, they have a bit of a soft spot in my heart.

For these, I used a Martha Stewart recipe slightly adapted. I think that hot cross buns are not compete without the raisins, but I know that some (ahem, my brother) would disagree. What does not find itself in here are those candied fruits that supermarket versions like to put in because, blegh. To please the masses, I split the dough in two and made half with and half without the raisins. I also swapped the all-purpose flour out for whole wheat in equal ratios and had no problems. The crosses are made with a cream cheese icing as opposed to just confectioners sugar because, well, it's just better.

Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns

HOT CROSS BUNS // Makes 24 buns
Recipe from Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup milk
4 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups raisins
1 large egg white

1/2 package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Heat milk until warm, but not boiling. In a large bowl, combine melted butter, milk, yeast, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add flour one cup at a time. Continue to knead until smooth, approximately 5 minutes.

If making buns with and without raisins, separate dough into two rounds. Add raisins to one bowl and knead until distributed. Butter, spray, or coat both bowls with oil. Coat dough in the oil, and cover the bowls. Allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours. Roll out dough into a log and cut into sections to make 24 rounds. Roll into a bun shape and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. With a sharp knife or scissors, slice a cross into the top of the buns. Wash buns with a mixture of egg white and water. Allow to rise for another hour.

Heat one to 375F. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

To make the cream cheese icing, combine cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. When the buns have cooled slightly, pipe crosses into their tops.

This post first appeared on with wanderlust.


Mast Bros Chocolate Bread
Mast Bros Chocolate Bread
Mast Bros Chocolate Bread
Lately, I've been doing a fair share of baking. Three cakes in the span of two weeks, two successful batches of macarons, cookies... I find myself doing a lot of sampling as I go along, but once I reach the finished product I am never quite satisfied. In the past, I would have considered myself to be a big fan of desserts, but these days it's all a bit much. I enjoy sampling obscure flavours, but overall I get little satisfaction from them. What I do come back to time and time again is, of course, chocolate. With the richest chocolate you only need the teeny tiniest bit for total satisfaction. It really is blissful.

I thought we'd change pace a bit around here and try a recipe that's a little more user friendly. Anyone who is a fan of chocolate knows the Mast Brothers reign supreme. Late last year, they released a cookbook that I have flipped through numerous times at the bookstore, but still have yet to purchase. I have managed to scribble down a few recipes though, and this chocolate bread is one of them. Chocolate? Bread? What's not to love.
Mast Bros Chocolate Bread
The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, which I'm sure would have been nice as well. In congruence with the chocolate and hazelnuts, I thought that the bread called for something a bit more robust. I opted for a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and rye flours. The result is really quite lovely.

CHOCOLATE BREAD // Makes two loaves
Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

1 TBSP + 3/4 tsp quick rise yeast
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water, 30-35 degrees Celsius
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rye flour
1 TBSP cacao powder
1 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
2 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cream

In a large bowl, mix yeast and brown sugar with water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bubbling. Add flour, cacao powder, salt, 1 egg yolk and butter. Using a stand mixer, knead dough for 10 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then knead again for 10 minutes more. Add dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and raisins. Separate dough into two balls, cover, and allow to rise for two hours. Turn out onto a floured surface and punch down once. Place dough in two, lightly floured 9-inch loaf pans. Whisk the remaining two egg yolks with the cream, and brush each shaped dough with the wash. Leave to proof for 45 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425F. Bake for 12 minutes. Lower oven to 350F and continue to bake for 20 minutes.

This post first appeared on with wanderlust.


75% Whole Wheat with Levain
75% Whole Wheat with Levain
Working at a gym, I am well versed in all the crazy trendy diets out there. One that I don’t really get is the gluten-free thing when you aren’t even gluten intolerant. I can guarantee that these (mostly) women have read or at least seen snippets of Wheat Belly and have since condemned wheat and specifically gluten as the devil. Of course, most of the conversations that I overhear go something along the lines of, “Have you tried that great gluten-free bread/snack/packaged something-or-rather,” at which point I have to roll my eyes a little. That slice of bread that you’re giving up? It would do you a lot less damage than that gluten-free garbage that you’re having instead.

Being so interested in food, food politics and cooking, it’s hard not to define myself by my diet. Vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Keto? I made the decision a few weeks back to reintroduce meat into my diet, and while I have yet to actually do so, it struck up an interesting conversation between Gabi and myself about the slight identity crisis that comes with this sort of thing. Our take on the matter is that since we have followed strict-vegetarian diets for so long, our identities are ultimately wrapped up our eating habits. We both follow plant-based diet for different reasons—Gabi more so for the animals, and myself as a political and health stance. My decision to move away from a strict-vegetarian diet and furthermore to move away from labeling my eating habits in general, was not an easy one. However, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for nearly two years, and now feels like the right time.

There is so much more that goes along with the consumption of food than the actual act. There are cultural aspects in regards to food preparation and practices, as well as the social aspect of food. Instead of smacking a label on eating habits and defining ourselves this way, we ought to focus on the important thing: finding nourishment and utter enjoyment in the bounties of the Earth.

I find great pleasure in the simplicity of enjoying a fresh-baked loaf of bread. The actual act of breaking bread with friends and family is something that I hold near and dear, much more so than any of the restrictions that I—we—place on ourselves from attempting to categorize our eating habits.

75%+ Whole Wheat with Levain
75 Percent Whole Wheat with Levain
75%+ WHOLE WHEAT BREAD WITH LEVAIN // Makes 2 loaves
Every so slightly adapted from Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast

For your levain
100g mature levain
400g all purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
400g 32C water

For your final dough
50g white flour
750g whole wheat flour
660g 35C water
20g sea salt
1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
360g levain

Feed your mature levain six to eight hours before mixing the final dough. More information regarding creating a levain can be found in the book. In a large tub, combine white and whole wheat flours with water by hand. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Add salt and weighed levain and mix by hand using folding and pincer methods. Cover and allow to rest. The dough needs three folds, which should be made within the first 1 1/2 to 2 hours after mixing.

Roughly five hours later after the dough has doubled in size, it is ready to be divided into two. Shape the dough using methods outlined in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, then place the dough into proofing baskets (or large bowls lined with floured kitchen towels) overnight.

Preheat the oven to 475F an hour before cooking. While the oven is heating, place 2 Dutch ovens on the rack with lids on. Turn out the dough into the Dutch ovens. Bake with lid on for 30 minutes, followed by ~20 minutes with lid off.

I found it's great served with a pat of butter or honey.

This post first appeared on with wanderlust.


Jim Lahey No Knead Bread
* This post was first seen on

One of my intentions this year is to master bread-making. It's an art that I began to play around with last year in an attempt to rid the family pantry of preservative-laden breads that are found in the supermarket. Furthermore, I had an ideal of the perfect loaf of bread that I'd tasted in Seattle at Sitka &Spruce that I wanted to replicate at home.

Bread and our health

The obvious assumption is that a loaf of bread contains only the necessary four components: flour, water, salt and yeast, with maybe an additional cheese or spice to kick things up a notch. The reality of conventional bread looks a bit different.
Whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, water, glucose-fructose/sugar, yeast*, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), salt, wheat gluten, vinegar, calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, monoglycerides, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, sorbic acid. May contain calcium iodate, calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, cornstarch, ammonium chloride. *order may change. May contain soybean, milk ingredients and sesame seeds.*
Um, what? The amount of processing that now goes into something so fundamental and so simplistic is mind-blowing. Of course, the relatively long shelf life of a conventional loaf of bread should perhaps be a telltale sign of tampering from the get-go.

One would think that switching to whole wheat instead of white bread would make a huge difference in regards to health benefits. You’d be half right in that white bread is basically a glucose hit to the bod, but supposed whole wheat bread isn’t that much better. Case and point: the above label comes from a loaf of whole wheat bread. In Cooked, Pollan discusses just how much whole wheat flours have changed since we started making bread. It’s an interesting discussion, and one that included many facts that I did not know about the state of our whole grain flours.


I knew that there would be a few loaves that I would be making on my journey to master bread-making. Of course, I had an idea as to which would yield the result that I was after, but that it would be worthwhile to give the other methods a go. My first memory of home-cooked bread (or really, my only memory) came from a bread-maker. We purchased one again a few years back in an attempt to reduce the amount of supermarket bread that graced our table. Next, I took out both Tartine and Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast from the library, more so in the quest for exquisite pizza dough than bread. Nevertheless, I made one loaf with my own starter from each book and received decent results.

Recently, I read Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. His book devotes an entire section to bread-making, and was ultimately the reason why I picked it up in the first place. Everything that could be said about the romanticism of bread-making is said in Cooked, so I'll leave it to Pollan to provide those words. What the book provided me was an excellent starting point in my attempt to understand the science behind the perfect loaf of bread. Pollan writes of his mentorship with Chad Robertson of Tartine Bread and the science behind Robertson's perfect white loaf. That is my starting point. I couldn't agree more with Pollan that most of the literature out there begins with mastering a good loaf of white bread as opposed to wheat, since white bread has been so commonplace for such a long time.

The health detriments caused by white flour and white bread are hard to ignore, and it slightly (very slightly) pains me to begin my bread-making journey there. However, I feel that, much like Pollan, in order to feel comfortable messing around with wheat flours I must first be knowledgeable in the creation of a white loaf. My first experiment of the year came in the form of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the infamous no-frills recipe that popped up on the web some years ago and has since gained cult status. Looking back, it seems perhaps a peculiar place to start. Why not a very simple loaf made by the bread-machine? I don't really have an answer for that, except that I was looking for something a little more artisan and Lahey's recipe seemed the perfect fit.

Jim Lahey No Knead Bread

The process

I mixed the dough the night before I planned to cook the bread. Just flour, water, salt and yeast mixed together to form a somewhat shaggy dough with a surprisingly high level of hydration. I covered it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it sit for the maximum eighteen hours, falling into early afternoon of the following day. As the recipe suggests, the dough seemed aerated, with bubbles forming on the surface. I turned it out onto the counter (wetting my hands to avoid sticking, as I'd learned in Tartine), gave it a few turns, and allowed it to sit for the recommended fifteen minutes before leaving it for its second rise.

Ah, the second rise. This is the point where the dough is transferred to a bowl sitting on a floured kitchen towel. I had trouble with this process when I made my Tartine-inspired loaves last year, and I had the same issue with Lahey's loaf. The trouble being that my kitchen towel never seems to be floured quite enough, resulting in the dough sticking and ultimately deflating it when trying to peel it into the dutch oven. Furthermore, I'm concerned that at this point I skewed the process a bit by letting it rise longer than Lahey recommended. I left the house for a few hours and debated delaying the second rise a bit by putting the dough into the refrigerator. I didn't, and instead left it on the counter. Instead of a two-hour rise, I'm sure that it was more like four by the time I returned home and pre-heated the oven. 450F, pre-heat for an hour, followed by a half-hour cook with the lid on, followed by anywhere from an additional fifteen to thirty minutes with the lid off to form a browned crust. I cooked mine for the maximum length, hoping that my loaf would resemble one of the Tartinian ones I'd made in the past, only to find that it didn't brown quite the same, or get nearly as dark as I recalled. No, what resulted instead was a crust that I found to be a bit to crusty for my liking (although perhaps the better reasoning is that I need better knives).

After allowing it to cool, the first cut revealed an airy interior. The taste was good, but the scent was better. The slight sourness that comes with anything yeasted lent more to the loaf than the actual taste itself, and thankfully that smell lingered in the house for hours to come. I enjoyed the heel, still warm, with a pinch of butter. The rest I cut up and left to my family for sandwiches. They sang praises, thankfully.

It's easy for me to pick out where I went wrong in the process of making the no-knead bread, although I don't quite understand the science as to why. I have a lot more investigation to do before I come to that conclusion. For now, I suppose that I'll be satisfied with the result. In Cooked, Pollan mentions that he hasn't yet been satisfied with his results and that he has a-ways to go before achieving that perfect loaf. I imagine that for me, my bread-making experience will be a bit like that. The happiness that even a "mediocre" loaf of bread can bring my family is enough to subside my feelings of the need for improvement.

- s




Palace of Fine Arts
Typical Breakfast
Fisherman's Wharf
Craftsman & Wolves

San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts

At the end of July, I took a long-planned trip out to San Francisco with a friend. By long planned, I mean years in the making, months in the planning. It was one of those sigh of relief, "we're finally doing this" moments, and for the most part, it lived up to the hype. The trip was definitely a short one—only four days—and we managed to cram one hell of a lot into the trip. A most-wise suggestion: Do not attempt to walk from Mission to Fisherman's Wharf, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and back. By the end of THAT day, all that was left were two very delirious, very exhausted girls. The trip was mostly food and shopping-centric, so here's some of our favourites.

flour + water. I think it's safe to say that this was both of our favourite dinner. The atmosphere of this place is really cool, and the food is amazing. We didn't do the full courses and opted just for an appetizer, pasta, and dessert, but it was all AMAZING. Get the budino for dessert.

Craftsman & Wolves. Three words: The Rebel Within.

Ritual Coffee Roasters. My somewhat surprising pick over the other coffee shops. The coffee was great, and we had some excellent pastries as well. Unfortunately, they're now undergoing renovations, but still one to keep on the list.

Bar Tartine. Brunch! Small plates! Bar Tartine has an ever-changing menu, but if you have a chance to try the smoked potatoes with black garlic, do it.

The Mill. The home of the $4 toast, and worth every penny.

Aesop. This place will bleed you dry, but the products are petty incredible and smell amazing.

This post first appeared on with wanderlust.

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