Let Me Introduce Myself

My name is Jim… or you can call me “Bear”.

Bear was my callsign when I flew F-4’s and F-15E’s in the USAF.

  • I like to cook and have recently been really focusing on my baking.
  • I’m on a quest to perfect sourdough bread, croissants and pastries.

My intent is to share my love of baking and my journey to becoming a better baker.

Someday I’m going to not have a “job” and I will be able to devote much more time and attention to my baking than I currently am able to dedicate. When that time comes I’d like to possibly start a business. Until that time you’re welcome to come along on my journey of discovery. I’ll share my ups and downs as I go; both triumphs and those “Well, THAT was a learning experience!” moments!

Feel free to connect with me. I love to connect with folks that share my love of baking, that are learning and experimenting and that don’t mind sharing their experience(s).

My hope is that in a year or so I will have made new friends, learned how to be a better baker and brought smiles to those who I’ve had the privilege to walk this journey alongside.

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat and Kouign Amann

Baked Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat and Kouign Amann.

Pastries are cooling

I hadn’t made these I a bit and my wife really likes the Pain Au Chocolat.

They all start out with same laminated dough as my Sourdough Croissants. Different shape and inclusion of the chocolate for the Pain Au Chocolat and sugar for the Kouign Amann.

I have found that Cacao Barry Bittersweet Chocolate is the best. I buy mine on Amazon.

Bittersweet Chocolat

The bittersweet chocolat works well and doesn’t melt and ooze out. I roll in two bars and then a third as I finish the rolling.

My Kouign Amann doesn’t have sugar laminated inside. I go “low tech”. When making mine I just sprinkle on some sugar and pat it on. I smear the inside of a muffin tin with softened butter and coat that with sugar. The laminated dough is cut into 4” squares, pushed into each space and the four corners folded into the center. I sprinkle a bit more sugar on top. That’s it.

I proved each in a proving bag for a couple of hours and then baked at 385°F. The Pain Au Chocolat went for roughly 13.5 minutes. The Kouign Amann for a bit longer. I kept on opening the oven to check them and, as a result, dumped the heat multiple times. I just didn’t want to burn them!

Once baked I glazed them with apricot jam while they were in the tins. I left them in the tin for 4 minutes before removing. Next time I’ll only wait three minutes. They were beginning to cool and harden…want to get them out just a bit sooner to make them easier to remove.

BTW they tasted AWESOME!! Both my wife and I sheepishly looked at each other after we (evidently) wolfed them down! Ha!

Focaccia – Caramelized Onion, Rosemary and Course Sea Salt

Tried some different focaccia flavors caramelizing some yellow onion then adding some fresh Rosemary from my garden and some course sea salt.

Focaccia cooling

I think I should have pulled it 3 minutes earlier…darker than I prefer.

That said, I’m pleased with the other factors affecting my method.

Here are some pics of me making it:

I’ll taste and see. It was a good attempt…just need to be mindful of my baking time parameters if I want consistent results I prefer!

Savory Sourdough Danishes

Had a desire to make savory Danishes again. Think it was prompted by seeing my Rosemary in my garden take off growing again.

Savory Danish

Filling was caramelized shallots, brie, and figs topped with a fresh rosemary, black pepper and honey drizzle.

I must admit that drizzle is unexpectedly good!

BTW when I mentioned “caramelized shallots“ I put a “little” butter in the skillet, start to render the shallots and as the start to soften/brown I’ll deglaze the pan with a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar. Tasty!!

The figs were some that my father-in-law had put up last fall so they went on top of the Brie prior to baking.

Below are some pics of the assembly of the danishes. The egg wash and some fresh, course-ground black pepper have already been applied prior to adding the shallots

I baked them at 385°F (convection) for 13.5 minutes.

Savory Danishes cooling

I will admit that these are REALLY tasty! Definitely something to do more often for sure.

Next time I’ll need to try some different flavor combinations. Would love suggestions…

Sourdough Cherry and Apple Danishes

I decided to make Cherry and Apple Danishes in yet another experiment with my base sourdough croissant dough.

Cherry Danishes

Thought this time I’d cot out squares and create a pocket for filling by placing a cup in the center as they proved.

Nice hypothesis. Not so good on execution.

Here is where the method went a bit south:

  • Didn’t spray bottom of cups with Pam or coat with butter. Stuck to pastry. Thought about doing so … just ignored myself
  • Probably over-proved. Was using a similar time as for croissants. Didn’t need to do so since these were a single layer and NOT cooled.

Next time I’ll not use cups, prove a shorter period and make a pocket by pressing down with my fingers prior to filling.

Egg wash and bake as normal after filling. I cherry pie filling and apple pie filling. I did add some rum-soaked sultanas (golden raisins) to the apple pie filling.

Overall they came out nicely. A bit large…I keep on sizing these like I’m a 12-year old. Need to pare down and make a bit smaller next time! Ha!

After they cooled I made a cream cheese frosting similar to what I do with my cinnamon rolls and striped them.

My piping needs a bit of practice!

I’m pleased with my efforts. They’re going to taste awesome for Easter brunch!!

Sourdough Chocolate Babka

Continuing to work on different creations using my base doughs, in this case my dough I use for croissants (and pastries and cinnamon rolls).

I’ve posted before about making chocolate babka.

This method uses Nutella as the filling, rolling, cutting lengthwise, braiding and proving in a Pullman tin.

Funny thing is that I haven’t written down much since my last time…big mistake! I can’t remember what temperature is baked it last nor for how long! Oops.

Therefore, I’m going to egg-wash it and bake at 325°F for 35-45 minutes. I’ll check at 30 mins.

My sourdough Pullmans bake at 400°F for 30 minutes and then for 350°F for another 30 minutes. Not sure I want to bake the Babka that long. I’ll check it’s internal temp at the 30 minute point. If it’s over 200°F I will pull it out.

Here is what it looked like putting the egg wash on prior to baking.

I checked the internal temperature at 30 minutes. It was 175°F. The top was still light enough to bake a bit further. I returned it to the oven for another 15 minutes. After 15 minutes the internal temperature was over my target of 200°F.

Here’s how the loaf looked out of the oven…

Pretty pleased with how it came out. Smells heavenly! Will be a great birthday gift for my friend who likes chocolate (and my sourdough baking).

Warning: Non-baking related!!

I’m excited!

For those of you who have followed me for a while you’re aware that 18 months ago I flipped my motorcycle at 50+ mph and walked away from it.

God was really gracious and I’m thankful!!

After a lot of consideration (and with the loving approval of my wife) I made the decision to ride again…but 3 wheels, not 2 going forward.

My new trike conversion is finally ready!!

Indian Roadmaster Trike

This is such a big thing for me to “get back on the horse” as it were.

Will start slow and approach it “iteratively & incrementally” as I get back on.

Just sharing…

Sourdough Focaccia (again)

Made some more Focaccia. I did some research and decided I’d bake hotter/faster based on what I read.

Sourdough Focaccia

I was more patient this time and letting the dough rise a bit longer once stretched and placed on the olive oil drizzled pan.

Toppings this time were green Olives, Rosemary and pink Himalayan Sea Salt.

My method change was to preheat a cookie sheet for inverted at 450°F for 20 minutes. I then baked the Focaccia for 15 minutes, spun around and continued baking for another 15. Internal temperature was over 200°F once baked.

I can as pretty pleased with my updated method. Toppings were really good. This is a great bread to make!

Sourdough Focaccia

I ran an experiment this weekend. I decided to make sourdough Focaccia. My experiment was to make the same base dough as my recent sourdough Pullman loaves and at the moment of splitting the dough one would continue on the path to be a Pullman loaf and the other Focaccia.

Focaccia about to be eaten!

I followed the same recipe and method as before. Once divided I placed one of the parts into an oiled cake pan and stretched it into a rectangle. I then placed it into my proving box set to 84°F.

Dough is n oiled pan going in for second proof

Once it had risen further (about 90 minutes) I drizzled it with more olive oil, dimpled it with my fingers and topped with Castelvetrano Green Olive, Sundried Tomato and Parmigiana Cheese.

Truthfully, I could have let it rise even further but I was impatient. My dimpling technique needs work. It was my first attempt at this in a long time. I just saw an episode of The Great British Baking Show for Bread week and the participants had to make Focaccia.

I also started my bake at too low a temperature. Next time I’ll bake hotter/faster… 500°F? Not sure yet. Will need to do a bit of research. Certainly want the inside to cook and not scorch my topping.

Note: I did learn from the show that sautéing your toppings (veggies) can prevent that…

BTW I adjusted by adding more time, bumping my heat up +50°F and watching it like a Hawk.

I’m meant to let this cool but couldn’t wait. It smelled heavenly!

I cut myself and my wife some slices and enjoyed them immensely!

Nice crisp crust and chewy center. Irregular structure with both large and small holes. Great “mouth feel” Savory and just the right hint of salt from the Parmigiana cheese.

I continue to be amazed at how many different sourdough breads I can make with this one base recipe! Variables in proving length, temperature, shape, volume/surface ratio can yield vastly different results (all tasty)!

I’m definitely going to keep experimenting like this.

Sourdough Croutons

I decided the leftover sourdough Pullman loaves would be an excellent candidate for making croutons.

Sourdough Croutons

After slicing the bread I cut each into 16 pieces roughly 3/4” in size. I wasn’t precise…I tended more towards “roughly” than “3/4””.

I then drizzled them with about 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil (it was a large bowl) and then added a good sprinkling of Herbes de Provenance. And gave the batch a good stir

Tossing in olive oil and seasoning

Preheated my oven to 400°F and baked for about 18 minutes. Every 6 minutes or so I’d pull them out and rearrange them on the tray to help them bake evenly.

I’m really pleased with the results. Last time I left them in a tad too long and the results were darker than I prefer. These are perfect! Nice crunch and a hint of sourdough twang as a finish. The Herbes de Provenance smell is heavenly!

Thinking a Caesar Salad with soup is in order on this snowy day!