Fall is going strong here in Alaska, and my work has slowed down to the point where blogging regularly will once again become a priority. What is my “work”, you ask? (smoothest segue award goes to me…. but hey, a lot of people actually have asked me) Basically, I’m an up-and-coming hotelier. Just kidding. That would be a miserable job, and mine is way cooler. I’m a “site manager” (fancy version), or “caretaker” (less fancy version) of a huge, full-home, AirBnb rental. My Alaskan networking team (dad and stepmom) hooked me up with the gig and it’s actually kind of the best. I mean, it’s a lot of cleaning and mowing lawns, but it’s only every few days during the summer, and every few weeks in the winter. I don’t have to commute, I have tons of down time, and during the winter… my schedule is insanely flexible. The work consists of greeting guests, taking care of their needs during their stay, cooking their meals (if requested), and cleaning the house when they leave. As well as some yard work and light maintenance. The hours do add up… but it’s beyond worth the money we’re saving on rent.
Hopefully, with off-season starting, you can expect way more posts from me, and I’ll attempt to step up my social media game as well. I’m mostly telling you this for accountability reasons. Perceived social pressure works, okay?
(Yes, this is me smelling a crab apple. My husband took these photos–thanks babe–and I told him to tell me what to do and “get creative”… this is what happened. Honestly, I say he did a good job.)
As far as the recipes go today, I’m going to keep this post fairly short and sweet. This sourdough and jelly pairing isn’t fancy at all and it’s totally doable at home, especially if you already have a little sourdough experience under your belt and a good starter. If not, maybe I’ll do a little more in-depth post on sourdough in the future? After all, this one isn’t very impressive in the looks department. I couldn’t find my little kitchen razor blade anywhere when it came time to score the dough… so I used a paring knife. #didnotworkwell. The bread also has a very tight crumb (no big holes) and thus lacks the typical hole-y texture of a classic artisan sourdough. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to remedy this when you’re working with anything equal to or higher than a 50% wheat flour content. If anyone out there has made a successfully open-crumb sourdough bread using at least 50% wheat flour*…. you’re probably a wizard, but also, give me your secrets.
Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf
250g active starter (not straight from the fridge)
200g bread flour (NOT all-purpose)
400g whole wheat flour
2 t. salt
Thoroughly mix water, starter, and flours. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes. Add salt, and mix again (“mixing” will feel like you’re doing something between kneading and mixing. You’ll have to use your hands, but the dough will be pretty wet.). Turn dough onto a clean counter top (not floured) and stretch/knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. You will probably need to utilize a dough scraper for this part to avoid a total mess. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour, then repeat the kneading process. Cover, rest and repeat two more times. You can be somewhat flexible with when you’re kneading the dough, but just make sure you’ve kneaded it for 10-15 minutes at least four times within a four hour period, with at least thirty minutes in between each kneading.
At this point, you should have enough gluten development to shape your dough (if not, keep repeating the rest/knead cycle). Turn your dough out onto a floured counter top this time, and fold all edges into the center, creating a smooth surface on the bottom side. Turn the dough over, smooth side up, and gently use your hands or a dough scraper to shape the dough into as even a circle as possible. Turn the dough into a well-floured basket or bowl (if using a bowl, line with a towel and flour the towel liberally), with the seam facing up. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Remove from the fridge at least an hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with either a baking stone or dutch oven inside to preheat as well. (I recommend leaving the dough in the bowl until the oven is fully preheated in order to avoid it losing its shape from sitting out too long). When your dough is fully risen and your oven is preheated, either turn your dough ball out onto a pizza peel, score it, and then carefully slide it onto your baking stone (and then cover with a tin roasting pan to retain steam for crispy crust) or remove your preheated dutch oven and place your d
ough inside as gently as possible, then scoring it as desired with a razor blade (or a sharp Exact-o knife works as well), replace lid and get it back into the oven as quickly as possible. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the lid or roasting pan, and then bake for another 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.
Spiced crab apple jelly
3 lbs crab apples
1.5 lbs white sugar
5 cups water
nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves to taste
Remove stems and dead blossoms from crab apples, and wash thoroughly. Cut into quarters. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, place apple pieces and water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until apples are very soft and water has turned pink. Remove pot from heat and roughly mash apples with a fork or potatoe masher.
Place either a few sheets of cheese cloth or flour sack towels (the more layers, the more clear your jelly will be) in a colander and place the colander over a large bowl. Place the apple mixture in the lined colander and let drain a few hours or overnight. It helps to mix the apples every once in a while to encourage “drainage”. Depending on how much water evaporated during cooking, you should end up with 3-4 cups of juice. Pour juice back into pot and and bring to a simmer. Add sugar and and spices, and simmer until the mixture reaches “jelly stage”, which lies at about 220 degrees. Skim off any foam, if desired, and pour jelly into jars. They will have to cool fully in order to “jell” or set completely. If you want, you can seal jars at this point, but we go through jelly quickly enough that I just keep mine in the fridge.
I recommend toasting your bread and slathering with a liberal amount of butter (or dairy-free spread) and an even more liberal amount of jelly for a perfect sweet, spicy, tart experience. Enjoy!