"You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” That’s for the writing poems part." -Frank O’Hara, Personism: A Manifesto // It’s for the cooking part, too.
This is the sort of sourdough I’d gladly gift to a loved one. Easter is right around the corner, y’all. And if you’re the type, like I’m the type, to want to gift something edible for the winter holidays, then this is absolute perfection. A bread that’s studded with melted dark chocolate chunks, golden hazelnuts, and boozy wild blueberries.
Of course you can play around with the ingredients here. Instead of hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, even walnuts will do just fine. And if you can’t find any dried wild blueberries, figs are perfect here. No alcohol? No problem. Soak in water or juice.
This is a dessert bread that I love to spread salted butter on, along with jams. Enjoy with a cup of coffee, tea, or with something a little stronger.
In a small bowl, combine wild blueberries, liquor, and zest. Allow it to sit, covered, for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
for the sourdough
In a medium bowl whisk together both flours and cocoa powder til combined.
In a large bowl filled with tepid water, plop into it your activated starter and whisk til frothy. Fold in the flours til a rough mixture is formed. Cover and allow it to autolyse for 1 hour. The dough will come together during this time.
Next you will be incorporating the salt, hazelnuts, drained wild blueberries, and chocolate between several folds. For the first fold, sprinkle a little bit of everything over the surface of the dough and with wet hands, pat where these ingredients are. You will now stretch and fold the dough in its bowl. Pinch one side of the dough and stretch it upwards without creating any rips or tears, then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl at a 90 degree angle and continue stretching and folding til you no longer see the first round of add-ins. Cover and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. You will do the above steps 2-3 more times til all add-ins are incorporated fully, allowing for a 30 minute rest in between each.
Line a round proofing basket with parchment paper, allowing room for overhang, and sprinkle it with flour or polenta.
Now you will shape the dough. Flatten it into a rough rectangle on a lightly floured surfaced, and lift the bottom of the dough towards the center. Move your hands a little further up the rectangle and grasp both edges, pulling both sides to the center. Do this a couple of more times, each time going further up the dough. Now roll it and flip it seam-side down into the proofing basket. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
Take the dough out 1-1.5 hours before you're ready to bake it. It must come to room temp. Pluck off any berries you see showing, as they don't taste good burned.
Place your dutch oven in a cold oven and preheat to 500. This should take 20 minutes. Score the bread and pull it out by the hanging parchment sides, and carefully plop it into the very hot dutch oven. Place the lid on and bake for 20 minutes. Then lower the temp to 425 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing.
There are other ways to incorporate the add-ins, but between folds is always how I’ve made my sourdough. If you find another way easier where you do it all at once, go for it!
My favorite Russian pirozhki couldn’t be more simple. I take a whole onion, couple of garlic cloves, a handful of dill, and blend them together til they reach a puréed consistency. I simmer ground beef with a bay leaf, the onion and dill mixture, generously adding salt and pepper. That’s it. That’s the flavor of them I recall from my grandmother’s kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to make the sofrito connection, which has the onion and garlic, but also sweet peppers, cilantro instead of dill, and spices. Grab the recipe for mom’s small batch sofrito and make these fluffy baked buns.
I was thinking about making a full-on pastelillo filling, but decided on the Russian’s less-is-more seasoned beef. But by all means, add some chopped pimiento-stuffed olives, small diced potato, raisins, more tomato paste or sauce, etc! You’ll just need less meat than this recipe calls for.
You may also fry them in batches, which is the only way I enjoyed them at Brighton Beach many moons ago, with the most fantastic oil dripping onto my bathing suit. Pero, nothing wrong with baked, either. Less standing by the pan, less oil-burns, less oil.
Note: this dough can be used for many other fillings, both savory and sweet. It can also be doubled (no need to double the yeast, just everything else). I’ll have dessert options posted soon. And meatless options!
In a deep pan, heat olive oil. Add your beef, breaking it up with a slotted spoon while adding in your spices.
Move some of the browned beef aside so that a little of the oil pools to the corner. Directly into the oil, stir in the tomato paste and allow it to caramelize for a minute or so before mixing it into the beef. This will enhance the flavor.
Stir in sofrito. After a few minutes, pour in the water and let it simmer til most of the liquid evaporates, occasionally giving it a stir.
Add in the cilantro and let the meat cool to room temp before using.
In a small bowl, sift your flour along with the salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, gently whisk together your milk, sugar, dry yeast and let stand for 10-15 minutes, or until very active.
Whisk in the butter and egg yolks, then slowly add in your flour, kneading as you go along for about 10 minutes. The dough is so supple and soft within a couple of minutes but I like to continue kneading for good measure.
Cover the bowl and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 2 oz pieces, about 8-10. Roll each into a disc and add 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling. Pinch the discs closed. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the buns seam-side down next to each other, giving them a tiny bit of room between each other.
Cover them with a clean tea towel and let them prove for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the beaten egg on each and bake for 20-30 minutes, til they've browned.