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Becoming a Baker, Part II


Hey guys! This is Janna, one half of the GRAIN team, back with another Becoming a Baker post. Life can be pretty hilarious sometimes. A few months ago I declared on this blog that I would become a baker, hell or high water. I committed to my sourdough starter publicly and emphatically. I was determined to create the bread of my dreams, with the perfect crust and that wonderful sourdough crumb. As it turns out, life took another turn – I found out I am pregnant! I am thrilled and excited, but my focus and priorities have shifted dramatically. The first trimester was not kind to me, and where I suffered the most was in the kitchen. In a matter of a few weeks I began suffering with horrible nausea that prevented me from coming anywhere close to caring for and feeding a developing (and very smelly) sourdough starter. I was steadfast at first. I just streamlined my operation and held my breath for as long as I could to avoid the sour smell, but eventually I couldn’t continue. I put my starter in the fridge and waited impatiently for my symptoms to subside.

After Christmas, I nervously pulled out my starter to see if it was salvageable. I’m sad to say that it was not. I was greeted with a thick layer of tough mold — this little one had not made it through. Also around this time, Shira asked a friend and well established sourdough baker, Alessandra, if she could have some of her starter. From what I’ve gathered this is common among the baking community, because every time you feed a starter you need to discard most of it. This provides the perfect opportunity to share the magical bacteria you have cultivated. Shira began feeding Alessandra’s starter with 100% freshly ground rye, and has started baking bread with it, successfully I might add! Shira then gifted me some of that same starter, and just like that I am back on track!

While some may see it as cheating to use an existing starter, I actually think it’s a perfect representation of what I love about baking. This starter has been cared for and nurtured by a number of people that are as passionate as I aim to be. It is a manifestation of their energy and dedication, and there is nothing that I want more in my kitchen right now! And just like they say about raising children, it takes a village. Right?

So, while I adjust to my growing belly and get back into the swing of baking, I’m leaving you today with a really, really good chocolate chip cookie recipe. These cookies are truly the best I’ve ever had. We have Tara O’Brady to thank for the recipe – they are in her cookbook, Seven Spoons.

I will keep you posted on how I do with my starter, and Shira will be posting pictures of her sourdough adventures on social media as well.

Thank you for your patience! New to the GRAIN Journal? Read the first Becoming a Baker post here. 

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Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups freshly milled, whole grain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar*
1/2 cup granulated sugar*
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)

*I used 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup coconut sugar with great results

Preheat oven to 360º. Line two baking pans with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, on the lowest heat possible, melt the butter. Let it melt slowly into liquid, with no sizzling, or caramelization. Stir regularly. Chop the chocolate while the butter melts.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and whisk in the sugars. Mix well. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine after each one. Stir in the Vanilla. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix in the dry ingredients. Once mostly blended add in the chocolate and stir until the remaining flour is incorporated. Try not to over mix. 

Shape the dough into 3" balls and place on the parchment lined baking pans, about 3" apart. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt. Bake until the tops of cookies are cracked but the centre is still gooey, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. 

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