Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's All About The Starter

As promised.. the rest of the story about my weekend with a Tartelette and a Breadchick!

Many months ago, I was talking to Mary in e-mails.. well, okay, I wasn't talking - I was bitching. Anyhoo, I was whining about not having any Panera Asiago Cheese bread in the house and how it's the only thing I crave when I'm sick - well, other than sweet potatoes. Yeah, I know I'm weird. :P But there just doesn't seem to be anything more comforting when I've got the sniffles than a couple thin slices of Panera's Asiago bread toasted and slathered with butter. Even when I have a sore throat - go figure!

So Mary said, "Wouldn't it be nice to be able to recreate it at home so you'd never have to be without?" Of course I readily agreed and promptly did some research hoping to find the recipe out on the internets somewhere. Well I never did find it.. although I did find a recipe for their olive bread and their 4 cheese bread. I also found out that most of their breads start with a sour dough starter - one made from grapes.

I sent this info to Mary and asked her (as she IS the Queen of Sourdough) if I could make this starter and if she'd mind walking me through it. Well not only did she agree to that, but she ran out, bought herself a loaf of Panera's Asiago bread and then replicated it in her own kitchen - in half the time that Panera's recipes called for!!

She sent me the recipe and as per usual, I was excited to have it but never baked it as the sponge (too close to a starter for my tastes!) scared the bejesus outta me and I didn't want to chance having something with yeast explode in my kitchen. And believe you me, if ANYONE can find success in exploding yeast - that'd be me.

So fast forward to about a month before the gals were due to arrive.. Mary wrote to inform me that we were going to not only make a sourdough starter, but we were also going to make the Asiago bread!! WOOOOOO FAKKIN HOOOOO!!! I was all over that, especially if there was going to be someone who knows what the fakk they are doing close by me. *grin*

Sourdough Starter Day 1 Sourdough Starter Day 1

We started the sourdough starter on Friday night and she taught me how to feed it every 12 hours. My starter went off like gangbusters.. apparently I've got a good house for keeping yeasties happy. Who woulda thunk it? By the time Mary left on Monday, I was confident that I could keep my starter thriving. My only fear was pre-heating my oven and forgetting my lil starter was in there. Yep, that's where he lived, inside my oven with the light on. Helene suggested I stick a post-it on the oven to remind me to take him out before I bake anything, which was a fantastic idea.

Asiago Bread

Next thing up was the bread. I'm still not sure how she managed to figure out another way to make this bread that wouldn't take 24 hours, like Panera's recipes stated, but she did. We started early Sunday morning (at least I think we did - there was vodka involved one of those nights) boiling potatoes and smashing them then squeezing out all their starchy water.

Asiago Bread Asiago Bread

There was a lot of waiting involved, which kinda killed me as my house was smellin' so damn good. But I was patient (shoosh Mary!) and waited until the goldeny heavenly scented deliciousness came outta the oven approximately 7 hours later.

Asiago Bread

Fanfarkintabulous, my friends! The crumb wasn't exactly like Panera's - but the taste was spot on. Cheese-y with a bit of a tang. Fabulous - just fabulous! =)

Asiago Bread

I WILL make this bread again - as well as many others, now that I've got a bit more confidence in working with the yeasties. Next time though, I think that I'll try to free form this bread instead of using the loaf pans. I can't wait!

Saturday it was all about submersing ourselves into the Slavic and Polish community of Cleveland. What a treat.. I've been through these neighborhoods often, but never stopped to explore them. This was also Mary's idea. Growing up, her parents had some friends (still do!) that were originally from the Slavic village of Cleveland and when they came to visit, they always brought Mary a bag of smokies as well as sausages and pastries, so she really wanted to go to these places.

We started off going to Hubbs' favorite Sausage Shoppe for smokies, Raddell's Sausage Shoppe in East Cleveland. After everyone bought their smokies and sausages, we headed to Gertrude's Bakery for some authentic Slovenian and Polish pastries. Next on the list was R & L's Sausage to pick up the smokies that Mary grew up on. And finally - my favorite new restaurant - The Seven Roses Polish Deli. Oh. My. God. As soon as you walk into this place you know the food is going to be good. And you know it's going to be made from recipes from someone's grandmother who still lives in Poland. Polish is the main language spoke (and written on some items) here, but the lovely gals running the place were very helpful in translating for us.

First we browsed the huge library-like shelves, complete with rolling ladder, which were housing 100's of different Polish foods. From candy to pickled cabbage, you could find anything your heart desired. As soon as the smells from the kitchen became too much, we sat down for lunch. A very sweet girl, with a thick accent, came to us with menus and a lovely smile. The menu featured a few different "sample" platters, so we went with a different one each so we could try everything. I ordered the cabbage roll platter that also had potato pancakes (the best potato pancakes I've ever had), and a cucumber salad in a vinegar dressing (again, the best I'd ever had). Hubbs ordered a Polish Keilbasa platter that also had meatloaf (made with sauerkraut - FABULOUS), potato pancakes and sauerkraut. Mary ordered the meatloaf platter, I believe, and I think it also had potato pancakes and cucumber salad. Helene ordered.. *gulp* an authentic polish soup that featured tripe. Me no likey the innards of a cow, but I dunked my bread (some Polish potato roll that was fab) in it and the taste was amazing. Helene said it was the best soup she'd ever had.

Polish dinner
Starting at the top: potato pancake, homemade pierogies, a small piece of Slovenian sausage, a link of Polish Keilbasa, cucumber salad, sauerkraut, and in the middle part of a lil meatloaf.

After we were done, we pretty much needed to be rolled out the door, but that didn't stop us from buying Keilbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, meatloaf, and some sweet rolls to go with the Irish butter I had purchased at the West Side Market the previous day.

Polish Dinner
Check out the Kerrygold butter.. so far in my butter tasting experience, this tops everything I've tried. But I still have Presidente and Plugra to go! :D

And yeah, we ate it all again for dinner Saturday night. heeee!

Just writing this up makes me want to head to the Slavic village again this afternoon.. ohhh if I didn't have so many chores to get done before heading back to the dungeon on Monday. My vacation is officially over. :(

There is just one more thing!!

I feel the need to share with ya'll what happened to me Thursday night. Remember that post-it that Helene suggested I put up on my stove?


Yeah.. I kind of didn't get that up there soon enough. I wanted asparagus "fries" for dinner, which meant I had to pre-heat the oven to 425º F. And uhmm.. well.. let's just say that I can now add to my resume of kitchen disasters, "Starter Murderer" *sob* And I was doing so well!!! Just two more days and I could have named him! UGH.

Holy crap! I can't forget the sweets!! As if. Highly unlikely that we didn't OD on sugar, butter and flour now is it? :D

German Chocolate Cake

Helene made this gorgeous German Chocolate Cake - just as tasty as it is pretty!

Bene Wafers

Bene Wafers

AND Helene found a recipe for Benne Wafers - lil sesame seed cookies are all that I ever want her to bring me from the Olde Colony Bakery in Charleston. I am addicted to them, thanks to her sending them to me in my YUMMY Christmas treats box last year. Now I can make them whenever I want - and these were 100 times better than the bakery's! I was shocked and very, very, very happily surprised! heeee!



Comments on "It's All About The Starter"


Blogger Kajal@aapplemint said ... (10/27/2007 12:12 PM) : 

hey you are not going to believe this . I did the exactly same thing 2 days back.I had left my yeast dough to rise in a plastic bowl, in my oven as its warm in there with a damp kitchen towel to cover it. 2 hrs passed and i was making bread and butter pudding ans asked my hubby if he could pls pre heat the oven for me as i needed to bake, totally forgetting about the dough inside. 10 mins later there is a terrible small and smoke commming and i turn around and see the owel in flames in the oven .OMG u shud've seen my face ...haha well i got it out but the bowl melted and the dough half baked and the towel totally burned off !
so u're not the only one :P
i love the idea of putting a post it sticker.I will definately be doing that a lot.
Your bread looks fabulous. Love the cheese on top.


Blogger Katie Zeller said ... (10/27/2007 1:04 PM) : 

I see Kerrygold butter in the back of one of those photo's...brings back fond memories of living in Ireland. Too bad you murdered the starter, that bread looked awfully good. I have never done such a thing, although I did bake a cake a second time, once, that I had stored in the oven...


Blogger breadchick said ... (10/27/2007 1:33 PM) : 

HEE HEE!! Reading this made me so hungry for some of that meatloaf again. Don't worry about the startercide, now that you know how easy they are, I'm sure you will get one going again and even get to name it!!

Hugs and kisses!!!


Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said ... (10/27/2007 2:11 PM) : 

Try three bags of chips in a pre-heating oven! I've been looking for that photo for a while now.
Nope, I say Cleveland is not still standing!
The bread looks divine and I'd start it right now but I baked two loaves yesterday and have two more in the oven today!
The Polish lunch sounds really great right now!! I'd have to try that soup.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/27/2007 2:36 PM) : 

Outside of being completely green with envy that you guys had this adventure...I'm totally ready to brave the whole wild yeast starter type thingy that you're talking about. I LOVE kerrygold buttah, and I had a some unbelievable sausage in vegas. On my plate. In Bouchon. Not in my hotel room. Sheesh. Thanks for sharing, Lis. hugs and such.


Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said ... (10/27/2007 11:33 PM) : 

I completely understand your addiction to Panera's asiago cheese bread -- I'm addicted, too. I haven't tried to bake my own, though -- what a great idea.


Blogger Elle said ... (10/27/2007 11:42 PM) : 

What a great baking adventure. A shame about the starter, but it will make a great Halloween decoration to scare the kids ;)
Besides, now that you know how to make it, you can do it again...Mary will be impressed.
The polish food sounds to die Polish food. We have a friend who makes Polish cookies at delicious.
Hugs and kisses oxoxox


Blogger Julie said ... (10/28/2007 5:03 AM) : 

Wow, that bread is so beautiful!

I'm sorry about your starter, too. I've melted down a lot of containers. Probably enough to make table settings for four ...


Blogger Brilynn said ... (10/28/2007 11:13 AM) : 

I'm feeling the need to make perogies now, or possibly a German chocolate cake, everything sounds so good!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/28/2007 11:44 AM) : 

Thanks for the links. I'm glad you enjoyed the Seven Roses Deli. Make sure to visit near Easter time when the place is overflowing with Polish baked goods and paczki (Polish doughnuts).


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/28/2007 12:40 PM) : 

Starter murderer! Well, I nearly did the same thing a couple of times so I totally identify. That's a whole lotta yummies you girls made!


Blogger Chris said ... (10/28/2007 5:43 PM) : 

Oh my gosh - I don't mean to giggle...I have done the chip bag in the oven, the "hide the present somewhere he won't find" in the oven - yeah - not pretty. The bread looks brilliant! And the German Chocolate cake? Yum! I made Benne Cookies ( last year They were gobbled up quicker than I can say the name!
Sounds like a great weekend.:)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/28/2007 9:39 PM) : 

Oh, the bread! Oh, the food! Oh, the fun! I can just taste what a great time you gals had. I'm so happy for you!


Blogger Julie said ... (10/29/2007 5:20 PM) : 

The bread looks sooo yummy. I had to comment on is the best; better than the rest. You know what I'm saying. I couldn't tell what kind you got, but i think the unsalted is superior. Isn't butter-tasting a fun pastime:)


Blogger Amy said ... (11/02/2007 1:47 AM) : 

Fun fun! That german chocolate cake *swoons* Bummer about the starter though. :( *pat pat* Those wafers look so good! Will you share the recipe? ;)


Blogger Jenny said ... (11/05/2007 11:03 AM) : 

Wow what a weekend!
Must go bug Helen now for the German Chocolate Cake recipe!
PS I'm sorry to hear about your starter dying!


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