What We Ate

Thanks for all the lovely comments about our backyard patio and our first BBQ. It really was a wonderful evening - perfect weather and a perfectly blooming crabtree. Not to mention some seriously good food. 

I'm sure you've heard that you're not supposed to try new recipes out on guest, but I say... why not? So we did. And they all turned out great. Of course, I am willing to share so you won't have to risk it! ha.

I ran across this easy, no kneading bread recipe on the Polished Pebble last week. As you know, Mr. DD is the baker around here but when he turned his nose up at this recipe, I decided to try it out myself. 
It's so easy, even I could do it. You really must try it. In fact, I've already made my second loaf!

Next on the new recipe trial list was Pork Tenderloins with Balsamic Strawberries, originally featured in Southern Living magazine. Where to even start with this one? Bacon wrapped tenderloins basted with a reduced balsamic and strawberry preserve marinade, topped with fresh strawberries. Best of all, everything can be prepared and cooked in 30 minutes on the grill. Including the beans. Perfection. 

And finally, for dessert, we tried this Three Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova. We're no strangers to pavlovas in these parts, but this is the first multi-layered, cake pan baked, brown sugar pav we're tried and I'll tell you, it did not disappoint.

I hope you try some of these recipes at your next BBQ. 

until next time, 


If you saw my Mother's Day post, you know that I was treated to some wonderful homemade brioche French toast for breakfast on Sunday. Of course, homemade breakfast, not made by me, is always a treat. But homemade bread as well - now that really is special. 

As you know, Mr. DD has really taken to the bread baking as of late. The girls and I are lucky enough to be the recipients of freshly baked Boules on a weekly basis, which I love. But who doesn't like a little change every once in awhile...variety is the spice of life, after all. Bring on the brioche.


Brioche is basically a sweet bread, containing both eggs and butter. Butter, lots of butter. This recipe came from, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart. There were 3 options, depending on how much butter you wanted to add: Rich Man's, Middle Class and Poor Man's. We went Middle Class, all the way.

This was no easy feat. There was the dough making on Saturday, followed by the 5am wake up call on Sunday to form the loaves and allow them to proof in time for a 10am brunch. Needless to say, I felt pretty special. 

Fortunately, we had a whole day in the garden to burn off the French toast and make room for the pork belly we had for dinner. Oh yeah, it was good. 

1/2 c bread flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 c luke warm whole milk

Stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 30 -45 minutes.

5 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 c bread flour
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, whisked for egg wash

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the eggs to the fermented sponge and whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the sponge and egg mixture, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the butter. Once the butter is incorporated, continue to mix with the dough hook on low speed for an additional 6-8 minutes. 

Move the dough onto a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper and form into a 6 x 8 square - we did this in a brownie pan.   Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

When ready, divide the dough into two equal parts and form into loaves on a floured surface.  Note, this dough can get stick pretty quickly, so it is important to do this step when the dough is cold.  To form the loaf, stretch the dough into a rough rectangle, about 8 inches long (or the length of your bread tin) and 3-4 inches wide.  Fold the dough over lengthwise into thirds, like you would a letter. Roll the dough to seal the seam and put into a lightly greased bread tin.  Let proof for about 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.  Brush the top with egg wash and proof another 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 400 F.  Bake for 35-45 minutes.  The bread should be golden brown on top.  Our loaves started to get a little too dark, so we covered it with foil for the last 10 minutes.

Remove from the tin immediately after baking and let cool on a rack.  

{Thanks Mr. DD for your interpretation of this recipe and a wonderful Mother's Day weekend! }

until next time,

Bread For the Soul Part II: Poolish!

Hi everybody, it's Mr. DD again, back for an update on my foray into bread-baking.  

The last time I wrote about my first try at making crusty European style bread, which ended with some tasty baguettes.  Since then, I have been reading books on bread baking, trying new techniques, and providing my family with tasty boules and baguettes. 

So, what have I been doing differently?

First off, I have been experimenting with different mixes of flour: whole wheat, rye, white.  I have also been trying different fermentation methods; cold vs warm.  Most importantly, I have been cultivating my own sponge starter, or poolish

There are many types of starters but they are all basically the same idea...use fermenting dough for a leavening agent, rather than just chucking in some yeast directly into your dough.  While this method requires more effort, the benefits are worth it as your bread will have better crust, more complex flavor, and a longer shelf life. 

I chose the poolish method because frankly it is easy to get started and maintain.  

So here is how you do it: In a decent sized container (with a lid), mix in 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast with 1 cup of warm water and let sit for 5 minutes for the yeast to get going.  Add in 1 cup of flour (many recipes call for bread flour, but I just used basic all-purpose white flour and it seems to do the trick) and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon.  It should be a bit watery and elastic.  

From here you have two options, if you want to use it as soon as possible, let the starter sit on the countertop for 6 hours or so until it triples in volume and is bubbly.  

The other option, which I recommend, is to let the starter ferment in the fridge overnight. I recommend this because by refrigerating the starter, you only have to feed it once a week or so whereas if you go the countertop route, you will be feeding daily and who wants to go through all that fuss?  Plus a slow, cold-fermented starter that will develop a richer, more complex flavour to layer into your bread.  My poolish is 2 months old now and you really can taste the flavours developing. 

So, how do you know when to feed your starter?  Like our newborn baby girl, it will let you know.  After tripling in height (with gas bubbles), your starter will collapse back down and the bubbles will disappear.  You may also notice a clear liquid, that smells faintly of beer, rising to the top.  Simply drain the liquid, add in 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of warm water and stir just like before.  Consider your poolish fed and put it back to bed in the fridge. 

Given time constraints from work and family, the time involved to make good artisan bread using a starter (8 hours at a minimum!) can be daunting.  However, it's all about getting into a routine and breaking up the task into more manageable steps.  

Here's my routine: I feed my starter the night before I want to make my dough, typically Thursday night (it takes literally 5 minutes).  Friday night I make the dough - yes life is that exciting with young kids.  

Between mixing, autolyse (we'll talk about that a later date), kneading, and re-feeding the starter we're looking at 45 minutes to an hour before both the dough and starter go back into the fridge.  

The next morning, Saturday..."daddy-bread day!" as our 3-yr old will say, the dough comes out to warm up, leaven, and prove before baking.  Most of time involved here is hands off, letting nature take its course.  

Meanwhile the starter just stays in the fridge until I bake next.  So, by using cold-fermentation and a poolish, I find the process to be much easier to manage.  I tend to make one big boule a week, which feeds the family, so this routine works.  Clearly you will need to feed your starter more often if you plan on making more bread, but it really is that simple. 

So that's it.  

The moral of this story:

Don't be afraid to grow a little sumpin' in your fridge, your family will appreciate the extra flavor!  

Until next time, when we'll discuss my experiments in flour mixes and leavening/kneading/proving. 

Mr. DD


Bread for the Soul

Yesterday, I told you all about our plans for enjoying life in the here and now.

Well, I thought you'd be pleased to know that Mr. DD obviously took our conversation to heart, because he treated us to a first round of homemade bread - fresh from the oven baguettes for breakfast anyone?

Um, yes please!

For a first timer, he said it was actually easier than one would have thought.

Gather your ingredients: flour, water, salt, dry active yeast.

Check out this link to see the recipe he followed. 

Mix the dry ingredients first and then add in the water.  

As much as they say baking is a science, this seems to have a bit of wiggle room. 

The key was to create just the right amount of stickiness. 
 The dough should stick to the bottom of the mixer but not the sides, so adjust with water and flour as needed.

The dough was then placed in a well oiled bowl, covered with Cling Film and refrigerated overnight.  The long process of cold fermentation gives added flavor to the dough while also producing bread that lasts longer before going stale.

The dough did rise some over night, but the real rising took place Saturday morning. Once removed from the fridge, it sat at room temperature for 3 hours.

(Now we know why bakers get up so early in the morning!)

Place the dough on a floured surface, then pull and stretch to approximately a foot long and 8 inches wide.
No kneading or rolling pin necessary!

Then cut into even portions.

Form into baguettes and place on parchment paper, score across the top.

Preheat your oven to 500degrees F, including your pizza or bread stone.  If your oven doesn't go to 500 degrees, that's ok, but crank it up as high as it will go because super-high heat is critical to the magic.

Essential for the European style crusty bread - a tray of water in included in the oven and the sides of the oven are squirted with water. 
(or in our case, flicked with water as we didn't have a spare spray bottle handy)

The dough should be placed directly on the stone. 

20 minutes later ... and check out those results! 

Now that's a good breakfast. 

Not to mention afternoon snack and evening appetizer!

Thanks Mr. DD for the lovely treat - now keep up the good work!

***This post was co-written by Mr. DD and me*** 
(His first written appearance on Designing Domesticity!)
We hope it has inspired you to give homemade bread baking a try - we've got a lot more experimenting coming your way, so stay tuned.

Another quick shout out: the recipe shown above is the closest rendition to the methods learned from the famous bakers at Paul bakery in the UK.
(for those of you lucky enough to live near a Paul in Washington DC or in Florida, their bread is the best!).

Until next time,