Sourdough Surprises: Za’atar Soda Bread

Za'atar-topped Soyrdough Soda Bread |

When Sourdough Surprises announced that we were making soda bread this month, I knew it would be an easy challenge for me.   Soda bread is one of my favorite ways of using up my discard when I feed my starter.  To make it, I start with my favorite recipe and subtract half of the weight of my starter from the liquid and flour in the recipe.  So, for example, if I have 4 oz of starter I subtract 2 oz from the flour and 2 oz from the buttermilk.

There isn’t a lot of sourdough flavor to this soda bread as it is a bread that is ordinarily leavened with baking soda and gets baked right away instead of fermenting and rising like ordinary bread.  However, it is a tasty and satisfying loaf.  To jazz it up a little this month, I added some za’atar seasoning to the top before baking.  Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seeds, salt and dried herbs.  The seasoning on the bread was good and it went really well with the spicy African Peanut Soup we were having for dinner.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Sourdough Surprises: Za’atar Soda Bread
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
A simple bread made with flour, salt, buttermilk, salt and the discard from feeding a sourdough starter. The bread is topped with Za’atar seasoning for extra flavor.
  • 4 oz (113g) sourdough starter (unfed)
  • 14 oz (397g) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/4 – 1½ cups (10.6 oz/302g – 12.75oz/363g ) buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. Za’atar seasoning
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Mix together the flour, soda and salt.
  3. Stir in the sourdough starter and 1¼ cup of the buttermilk and stir just until combined. If it needs more moisture, add more buttermilk 1 Tbsp. at a time.
  4. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and pat into a round about 6¾” wide and 1½” tall. Press the Za’atar mix gently and evenly into the top.
  5. Transfer the bread to the lined baking sheet.
  6. With a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about ¼ inch deep and extending fully from one side to the other.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats

I was trying to think of something green to make to celebrate March, St. Patrick’s Day and the imminent arrival of spring when I remembered a cooking program I watched recently that featured gourmet Rice Krispie Treats.  I can eat peppermint all year long and  thought a green colored treat would be nice for this month and also a lot more interesting than the plain and traditional treat.

To make these treats, I added some peppermint oil and green coloring (lots, but I could have used more) to melted marshmallows and butter which I used to stick together several cups of crispy brown rice cereal.  Just before pressing the mixture into a pan, I folded in mini chocolate chips.   I then mixed up a decadent ganache of cream and dark chocolate to spread over the top and decorated with some mint candies.  The results were delicious!  I think it’s been 20 years or more since I had one of these marshmallow treats, but I don’t think it will be that long again now that I know that I can add flavoring to them to make them more interesting.

I’m submitting this to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge for the March theme which is Spring.

Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
Marshmallow and crispy rice cereal treats flavored with mint and chocolate.
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 C. (150g) mini marshmallows
  • 4 C. (120g) Crispy Rice Cereal (I used Barbara’s Brown Rice Crisps)
  • ⅛ tsp. peppermint oil (try ½ tsp. if you are using extract instead)
  • green food coloring, 6 or more drops
  • 4 T. mini chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. (227g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ C. (1/4 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • 16 mint candies
  1. Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with foil and grease it well.
  2. In a large bowl, microwave the butter for 30 seconds on high to melt it. Add the marshmallows and heat on high another 30-45 seconds to melt the marshmallows. Stir and heat another 10 seconds if the marshmallows are not fully melted.
  3. Add the peppermint oil and green coloring and stir. The color needs to be pretty dark to show up in the finished treat. I used 6 drops, but could have used more.
  4. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, stirring just 2 or 3 times as they will melt a little in the warm mixture and get muddy looking if you stir too much.
  5. Evenly press the mixture into the pan with greased hands and set aside to cool.
  6. Heat up the cream in a small saucepan until it is just simmering. Pour it over the finely chopped chocolate in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir well until the mixture is smooth. If necessary, heat in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until all the chocolate has melted. Spread the chocolate over the crispy rice and decorate with the mint candies. Refrigerate for 2 hours until the chocolate has set.
  7. Cut into 16 squares.



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Watching Over You

Watching Over You - pattern by McKenna Ryan of Pine NeedlesThis year I made a goal to try to work on one UFO, pattern or try a technique from one of my quilt or art books each month.  I’m running a little behind since I got carried away with my January project and made a wall quilt from start to finish.  The quilt is 28 1/2″ x 32″ and is created with fusible applique and quilted by machine.  It should have been fast, but somehow it took me nearly two months to finish.  I’m pleased to say that I only had to purchase the border fabric and the rest came from my stash.

I’ve had this pattern, Watching Over You, by McKenna Ryan of Pine Needles, for several years.  I bought it because I really liked the peaceful feeling of the quilt and the way it reminds me of the Pacific Northwest.  It turns out that this scene is not really from the Pacific Northwest, but Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay.  An ancient Odawa Indian tale – the Legend of the Sleeping Bear – gives the bay it’s name and inspired this design.

The Legend of the Sleeping Bear is really kind of sad.  This is the explanation according the pattern insert:

Many, many years ago, so the tale goes, a great forest fire in Wisconsin forced a mother bear and her two cubs to swim across the big lake for the Michigan shore.  Almost to land, the cubs tired and sank.  Unable to rescue them, their mother reached land, then lay down on the shore in sorrow.  As she watched and waited, the Lake Michigan winds blanketed her in land, and she became a great sand dune.  Seeing her grief, the Great Spirit took pity on her and raised the cubs from the water as two islands, called the Manitous.  Centuries have gone by, and that Sleeping Bear still holds eternal vigil over her island cubs.

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Daring Bakers’ February, 2014 Challenge: Beautiful Bread


Za’atar Bread


Nutella Twist

Blog-­checking lines: Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste? 

I’ve been making bread since my teens, but always in very traditional shapes.  Other than braided Challah, I’ve never before tried manipulating my bread dough into a shape that doesn’t go into a pan.  Sawsan provided us with instructions for two beautiful shapes to try.  The shaping instruction she gave us was inspired by the shaped breads of Valentina Zurkan, whose breads truly are works of art.   They were both surprisingly easy to make and so fun to shape.  It’s kind of like origami, but one in which you have to wait for the baking to be finished to know the outcome.

I started with the first recipe, a kind of flower shaped cinnamon sweet bread, but opted to make it savory with a filling of za’atar seasoning instead of the cinnamon sugar.  The bread was soft with a subtle flavor and beautiful color from the seasoning mix.  One of things I really like about this shape is the built-in portion control.  Each of the 8 “petals” can easily be pulled away from the shape to serve and the slice looks just as beautiful on its own as it did as part of the whole.

The shaping for this bread was simple.   A raised dough is divided into 4 large pieces (plus optionally one very small piece for the center) which are each rolled into a circle.  These circles of dough are brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with the spice mix and stacked, leaving the spice mix off of the top circle.  The stack is cut into 8 triangles by cutting through the stack of circles.  A vertical slit is cut in the center of each triangle through which the point of the triangle is manipulated.  The wide sides of the triangle are then pinched together.  If desired, a small coil of dough can be spiraled in the center of the loaf where the points of the triangle comes together.  The whole thing is then brushed with milk and baked until golden.

The 2nd bread that Sawsan challenged us to make was a twisted Nutella Bread.  I loved the flavor of this one!  My first attempt was not very successful, but following some helpful tips from Sawsan, I was able to make a 2nd loaf (using my sourdough starter!) that came out fairly attractively.  Like the first bread, this one was formed with a stack of 4 circles of dough which had Nutella spread between the layers.  The center of the circular stack is cut into 16 points.  Each point is twisted a couple of times to form a star shape in the center of the bread.  The whole thing is brushed with an egg-like wash and baked until brown.

A big “thank-you” to Sawsan for introducing me to such a beautiful way to shape bread.  I know I will be using these techniques again and again!

The recipes for this challenge can be found at this link.


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