Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This past October Pickled Rose took a little trip to Las Vegas and did the unthinkable, GOT MARRIED!  The amount of love felt from all our family and friends was overwhelming in the best possible way, and is a day neither John or I will ever forget.   I have to apologize that in the midst of all the planning the blog took a backseat to invitations, gift bags, and vows.  Pretty lame, I know, but I promise that this recipe will make it up to you.

One of the best and most special wedding gifts I received was a stack of family recipes from my Aunt Chris.  I come from a long line of great cooks, and have learned so much about food from the matriarchs in my family.  I will cherish their wisdom, recipes, and memory forever.  This recipe comes from my Grandma Ebeling and does not disappoint.  Not only is the coffee cake easy to make, but it is so moist and delicious that you will want to keep it all for your self.  Every. Last. Crumb.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is sour cream.  It keeps the cake moist and balances out the sweetness of the filling.  Chopped walnuts add a wonderful crunch.  The inside of the cake is soft with swirls of cinnamon and brown sugar, and has a nice crumb to it.  The top is crunchy and sweet like any good coffee cake should be.  This is best served warm with a hot cup of coffee and is guaranteed to brighten even the dreariest of days.  

Sour Cream Coffee Cake


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a 10" tube pan with non-stick cooking spray or good old fashioned butter.  I used coconut oil cooking spray.  Next prepare the filling by combining brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a small bow.  Set aside. 

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Next, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Add to creamed mixture, alternating between dry ingredients and sour cream.  Beat until batter is smooth.  

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Pour 1/3 of batter into bottom of the tube pan.  Smooth out until there is an even layer.  Top with 1/3 of the filling.  Repeat 2 more times, so that you finish with the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until the top is crusty and brown and a knife comes clean from the cake.

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Basic Sourdough Bread

This is a delicious and versatile bread. It has a strong, tangy flavor, but the sourness isn't overwhelming. It has a nice crust and a tender, uniform crumb.

It's great for sandwiches, croutons, or just toasted with butter and jam. If you're a novice when it comes to baking sourdough bread (or bread in general), this is a good recipe to start with.

Basic Sourdough Bread

  • 2-3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp shortening

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and the shortening, until the shortening is melted and the mixture is almost boiling. Allow the milk to cool until lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the milk/shortening, the salt, the sugar, and the starter. Put the bowl in the mixer, and attach the dough hook. Turn it on to low speed, and add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough comes together, and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding small amounts of flour if the dough becomes sticky.

Form the dough into a ball, and place it into an oiled bowl. Turn the dough over a few times so it gets coated in oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled in size. How long this will take depends largely on how active your starter is, and the temperature and humidity in your house. I usally let it rise overnight. 

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn it to a floured surface, and knead for 3 minutes. 

Form it into a round loaf, put it on a greased baking sheet, and cover it with a large bowl. Let it rise until it doubles in size again - approximately 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

After the dough has risen, cut a few shallow slashes into the top.

Place in the oven, and bake for about 40 minutes, until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

When the bread is done, let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

Everything Bagels and Gravlax

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should make your own bagels:

5. You don't have to fly to New York to get a bagel that actually tastes like a bagel

4. Knowing your biceps are actually rock hard when you say "Got tickets to the gun show?"

3. The street cred and bragging rights

2. All of the inappropriate jokes and gestures you can make with the dough while poking holes into it

And the number one reason to make your own bagels is.... (drum roll drum roll drum roll drum roll)

1. THEY TASTE F*!#ING AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Everything Bagels

Everything Bagels

So it may take 2 days to make them, and you might burn out the motor in your Kitchen Aid mixer, but the results are totally worth it.  You will never want to buy a store bought bagel ever again.  And what better to top that bagel off with than homemade gravlax?  

Gravlax is raw salmon that is cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, and dill.  The prep time is very minimal, but takes about 3 days to cure, so be sure to plan ahead on this one.  I received this recipe from my boss last Christmas, and it is as good if not better than any cured or smoked salmon that you can buy in the store.  The thing that makes his recipe a little bit different is that the salmon, once cured in the salt and sugar mixture, cures in olive oil.  This extra step keeps the salmon really moist and adds a layer of fruitiness to the fish.

Grava Lox




1 piece of salmon, center cut if possible with the skin off, about 3 lbs. 

2 cups salt

2 cups brown sugar

2 bunches chives

1 bunch dill

1 cup olive oil

3 days ahead:

Combine the salt and sugar into a bowl.  Depending on the size of your fish you may or may not need more of the salt and sugar mixture.  You basically need enough of this mixture to cover the entire fish so that it is buried, and no parts of the fish are exposed.  In a non-reactive dish (ceramic or glass) spread an even layer of the salt and sugar mixture on the bottom of the dish.  Place the salmon on top of the salt and sugar layer. Next, chop up the chives and dill, and cover the surface of the salmon with the fresh herbs.  Then take the remaining salt and sugar mixture and cover the salmon completely so that none of the fish is exposed.  Cover the dish in plastic wrap so that the plastic goes around the whole dish.  Put the dish onto a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator.  The fish needs to be weighed down while it is curing, so I usually take a large soup pot and put it on top of the fish, and then fill the pot with items in my refrigerator, like a gallon of milk.  

The end of the 2nd day:

Take the fish out of the refrigerator and rinse off all of the salt and sugar.  There should be a lot of liquid in the dish, which is just the water that the salt has extracted out of the fish.  The herbs should be stuck to the surface and the salmon should have the firmness of a medium rare steak in the thickest parts.  Rinse out the dish and dry completely.  Place the salmon back in the dish and cover with olive oil.  Wrap the dish in plastic wrap and put back in the refrigerator for another day or until you are ready to serve.  Slice the fish on an angle, thinly, and serve on bagels or your favorite bread.

Everything Bagels

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice via Smitten Kitchen



1 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups bread flour

2 1/2 cups water at room temperature


1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3 3/4 cups bread flour

2 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon malt syrup

To Finish

1 tablespoon baking soda

cornmeal for dusting

Everything Bagel Toppings

2 tablespoons dehydrated minced garlic, rehydrated

2 tablespoons dehydrated minced onion, rehydrated

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 teaspoon salt

yields 1 dozen bagels

Day 1:

Prepare the sponge by stirring the yeast into the flour into a large mixing bowl*.  Add the water and stir until the sponge has the consistency of pancake batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the sponge becomes very bubbly and has doubled in size, about 2 hrs.

Everything Bagel Sponge

Sponge after rising for 2 hours

Next, prepare the dough by stirring in the additional 1/2 teaspoon of yeast into the sponge mixture.  Then add 3 cups of flour, salt, and barley malt syrup.  Stir or mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment in an electric mixer.  Once the dough has formed a ball, add in the remaining 3/4 cup of flour to stiffen the dough.

Everything Bagel Dough

Finished Dough

Continue to mix the dough on low speed in an electric mixer for approximately 6 minutes or transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand.  At this point, the dough should be extremely stiff, but smooth, where all the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed in.  There should be no raw flour on the dough. To make sure the dough has been kneaded enough, put it to the window pane test, where the dough should be elastic enough to hold its shape while stretched very thinly.  You should be able to see light through it, hence calling it the window pane test.  If the dough is too dry and rips, add a few drops of water to the dough and continue kneading**.  If the dough is too tacky add a little more flour and keep kneading.  You want a satiny smooth dough that should not stick to your work surface.

Everything Bagel Window Pane Test

Window Pane Test

Next, divide the dough into 12 equal 4 1/2 ounce pieces.  Shape the dough into balls and then poke holes into them, stretching them out so that the hole is approximately 1 inch in diameter.  Place the bagels onto lightly greased cookie sheets and loosely cover with plastic wrap that has also been sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Once the bagels have rested they need to pass the "float test" before the rising can be slowed down in the refrigerator.  Fill a large bowl with room temperature water.  Place the bagel in the water, and if it floats within 10 seconds after being dropped in the water, you and your bagel have received an A+ and have passed the test with flying colors.  If your bagel passes the test immediately return the bagel to the cookie sheet and place all of your bagels in the refrigerator overnight.  If the bagel fails the float test, continue to let the bagels rest another 10-20 minutes and retest.  Continue to do this until your bagel passes the float test.   

*I used my Kitchen Aid bowl, but please note that unless you have a professional series mixer, do not attempt to make this recipe in your Kitchen Aid.  I have the 6 quart professional model, and my motor was having a hard time mixing the dough for this recipe.  Halfway through mixing I had to finish kneading the dough by hand to spare my Kitchen Aid's life.

** I found that I had to add water to my dough several time throughout the whole process.  Just a few splashes here and there re-hydrates the dough to make it easier to shape and work with. 

Everything Bagels before proofing

Shaped Bagels

Day 2:

Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.  Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with non-stick cooking spray and then lightly dusting them with cornmeal.  Next, mix all of your topping ingredients together on a large plate and spread out in an even layer.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in the baking soda.  Once the water has come to a boil drop in 2-3 bagels and boil for two minutes flipping the bagels over half way through.

Everything Bagels Boiling

Bagels Boiling

After the bagels have boiled for 2 minutes remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to the plate with the toppings.  Coat one side of the bagel evenly with the everything bagel topping and place on the prepped cookie sheet.  Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled and topped.

Everything Bagel Toppings

Everything Bagel Toppings

Everything Bagels Before Baking

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, rotating the sheet pan every 5 minutes until the bagels are golden brown.  Let the bagels cool completely before slicing.

Everything Bagel Sliced

Now it's time to reap the fruits of your labor.  I topped my bagel with a nice layer of Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc (similar to cream cheese, but with a tangier flavor and slightly grainy texture), a good heaping pile of gravlax, a few thin slices of red onion, capers, and a sprinkling of lavender salt.  I guarantee that you will be dreaming of your next bagel and gravlax before you even finish the last bite!

Everything Bagels and Grava Lox

Bagels and Gravlax 

Sourdough Pizza Crust and Simple Tomato Sauce

One of the easiest applications of sourdough starter is pizza crust. I've made this pizza dough dozens of times. It took quite a bit of tweaking to get just right, but I think I've finally got it down. Unlike most yeast-leavened breads, this crust can be made in just a few hours. If you have 15 minutes before you leave the house in the morning, you can come home to a well-risen dough that can be turned into delicious pizza in half an hour or so.

Combined with a good tomato sauce (recipe below), you can make way better pizza than anything a delivery boy is going to bring. And it will cost a lot less, too.

This recipe makes enough dough for two 12-inch pizzas.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups active sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey

*You can make your own bread flour using all-purpose flour, and adding 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten for every cup of flour.

Place the starter, olive oil, salt, and honey in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add the flour, and stir to combine. At this point, the dough will be sticky and shaggy. Place the dough onto a well-floured board, and knead, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. When it's done, it might be a little bit sticky, which is fine. But it should not be nearly as sticky as it was when you started.

Pour a small amount (less than a tablespoon) of olive oil into a large, clean bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn it over in the olive oil, to coat it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest, at room temperature, for at least 3 hours. It will probably rise quite a bit, and will likely double, at least. However, if it doesn't rise very much, don't worry. It will still work. If you're going to let it rise for longer than 4 or 5 hours, you should put the dough in the refrigerator, to slow the process down. A slow rise in the refrigerator can actually make a slightly better dough than a fast rise, developing more complex flavors.

Pizza dough after rising for several hours.

Tomato Sauce

This sauce is sublime in its simplicity. The key is to start with really good San Marzano tomatoes, and to avoid messing with them too much. It's very important to use San Marzano tomatoes, and not a can of generic "diced tomatoes". I can't stress this enough. The sauce will not be the same without them. They cost a little more, but it's well worth it.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cans (23 Oz. each) diced San Marzano tomatoes, drained.
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds, and cook them until they darken in color, and become extremely aromatic - 2 or 3 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a small bowl so they don't burn in the pan. Grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Pour the olive oil into a stockpot or large saucepan, on medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and cook until it's soft, aromatic, and slightly browned - about 2 minutes.

Pour the tomatoes into a strainer, to drain out as much of the liquid as possible. Add the tomatoes to the pot, along with the bay leaves, balsamic vinegar, a few heavy pinches of salt, and several grinds of black pepper. 

Simmer on low, uncovered, for about 25 minutes. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Turn off the heat, and add the basil leaves (you can keep them whole, since the sauce is getting pureed anyway) and fennel. Puree with an immersion blender until the sauce is smooth, and there are no large chunks of basil visible. You can also do this in a blender or food processor.

Assembling the Pizza

Preheat oven to 550.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, and cut it in half. Place one half back into the bowl. Using your hands, or a rolling pin, slowly stretch the dough out to the desired size. If the dough sticks or tears, you can smash it back into a ball, and start over. But I'd try to avoid doing this more than once or twice, so as not to overwork the dough, which would change its texture. 

Continue to sprinkle flour onto the rolling pin, your hands, the cutting board, etc. to keep the dough from sticking. However, try to use the bare minimum amount of flour required to prevent sticking. 

When the dough is rolled out, dust a pizza peel (or whatever you're going to use to transfer the pizza to the oven - a large piece of cardboard, or a rimless baking sheet will work) with a layer of flour or cornmeal. Place the dough on the peel. 

Ladle some sauce onto the center of the dough, and use the ladle to spread it around. You don't need a ton of sauce, but there's no reason to skimp, either. You could probably get away with using a little less than the amount pictured here. 

Every 20 seconds or so, you should give the pizza peel a good shake, to ensure that the pizza still slides freely. Add cheese, and your favorite toppings. In case you're wondering, this one is topped with Italian sausage, trumpet mushrooms (those two are under the cheese, so you can't really see them), green bell peppers, and red onions. Of course, you can top yours with whatever you like.

Slide the pizza onto a hot pizza stone, or a cookie sheet, and bake at 550 for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Move the pizza to a cutting board, and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. 

Sourdough starter: it's like a pet....that you sometimes bake and eat.

John here. I'll be posting here from time to time, and might eventually even get my own byline, as soon as we figure out how to use Wordpress better. No promises, though. You'll probably learn a little more about me in the near future.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand: bread.

I love bread.

It’s arguably one of the most important prepared foods in human history, and one of the oldest, dating back tens of thousands of years. It’s such an integral part of our culture that we don’t even think about it. Perhaps because of its ubiquity, it’s also one of the most derided foods – often used as shorthand for a bland, meager diet meant to keep someone alive, and do nothing else (“bread and water”).

I guess bread would get boring if you had nothing else to eat, but, if you’re reading this, you’re probably fortunate enough to be able to choose what you eat on a daily basis – a luxury much of the world doesn’t enjoy – and don’t have to worry about such things. And considering the seemingly-endless variety of breads that can be made with the same few ingredients, boredom should not be an issue.

Bread is a food that epitomizes “greater than the sum of its parts.” In its most basic form, it’s made with flour, water, and salt. But combine those things in just the right way, and you’ve got one of life’s great, simple pleasures. Most types of bread today are leavened with commercially-produced yeast, which makes it rise quickly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bread made with commercial yeast, but it’s not the only way to do things. Given a little bit of time and care, the critters that live in the air around you, and on the flour in your pantry, will do a perfectly good job leavening as much bread as you’d ever need to make, and they’ll impart a flavor that can’t be replicated.

And that brings me to the actual topic at hand: sourdough bread. Throughout the vast majority of human history, if you wanted leavened bread, this was how you did it. It takes some time, and ends up producing something that you have to care for indefinitely (and it’s not nearly as cute or fun as a puppy). But the bread you can make. Let’s just say that, once you get the hang of it, it’s well worth the effort.

Sourdough starter involves cultivating the yeast and bacteria that naturally occur on wheat grains, and continue to live, in a dormant state, in most types of flour. By continuously adding flour and water to the starter (and removing excess starter to prevent the size from becoming unmanageable), you ensure that they have a constant food source. Sourdough gets its sour flavor thanks to the presence of bacteria called “lactobacillus.” They grow alongside the yeast, and produce lactic acid as a byproduct of the bacteria’s metabolism of sugar.

When I first decided I would make a sourdough starter, I spent a lot of time looking around the Internet for the “right” way to do it. As it turns out, there are a lot of different ways to make a starter. Some (and the one I ended up using) involve only flour and water. Others call for yogurt, commercial yeast, or grapes. And everybody seemed to swear by their particular method of making a starter, and woe unto anyone who used another method. It was a little paralyzing. But having made a few starters now, I’m sure that almost all of the methods I considered would have worked fine. After all, people have been making bread this way for thousands of years, and do you think the preferred method of Caveman A was identical to that of Caveman B? Doubtful. What I can say about this method is that it has always worked fine for me. I’ve been keeping the same starter for about 2 years now.

One thing I will say is that there’s no need to add commercial yeast to your starter, and doing so would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise.

And now, finally, the instructions. You will need:

-          Organic whole wheat flour

-          Unbleached all-purpose flour

-          Water

-          A non-reactive container that can easily be covered with a lid that does not lock. No jars with screw-on lids or other tightly-sealing containers. Unless these are vented every few hours, the buildup of gas will cause them to explode, at the very least making a terrible mess, and possibly causing serious injury or property damage. (Sorry. I’m a lawyer, and sometimes I can’t help myself.)

In your container, combine ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour, with slightly less water. Knead it until it forms a thick paste. Allow it to sit, uncovered, for 12 hours. At this point, it might not look much different than it did 12 hours earlier. It might smell kind of funky – this is a good thing, even if it smells terrible. It’s a sign of life.

Add another ¼ cup of wheat flour, and the same amount of water. Knead it into the dough that’s been sitting out. Let it sit for another 12 hours. You now have about ½ cup of dough. You want to double it again, so add ½ cup of wheat flour, and enough water to maintain the same consistency. Knead it together, and let it sit for 12 hours. Adding flour and water to the starter is called “feeding.” Think of it as a pet. You can give it a name, if you really want to.

Continue to double the size of the starter every 12 hours until you’ve got about 4 cups of starter. You still want to double the amount of starter every feeding. But if you keep this up, it won’t be too long before you’ve got enough starter to fill a swimming pool. And then doubling it will require another swimming pool full of starter. This obviously isn’t practical.

So, when you’ve got a good amount of starter (as I said, about 4 cups), you want to remove and discard (or use) half of it, and then replenish it with the same amount.

After 4 or 5 days, the starter should not stink. If it still does, start over. It should, however, have a very strong sour smell, and it should be pretty bubbly. At this point, you can switch to all-purpose flour. As you might have guessed, you should start with organic whole wheat flour because it’s crawling with the bugs that you want to cultivate. Once a good population is established, you can switch to regular flour. Using the same amount of all-purpose flour will result in a thinner starter. This is fine. You can adjust the proportions of flour and water in your starter to make it thicker or thinner, but I generally keep mine about the consistency of a thick pancake batter.

Within a few hours of each feeding, your starter should reliably become bubbly and foamy. If you keep your starter out at room temperature, you should probably feed it every day. But you can get away with going a few days without feeding it.

I keep mine in the refrigerator, and have gone over a month without feeding it. After bringing it up to room temperature, and feeding it once or twice, it was completely fine, as if nothing had ever happened. So, while you do have to take care of a starter, it has an extremely high tolerance for neglect. You can even freeze it for long-term storage. Just let it thaw at room temperature, and feed it a couple times.

As far as using your new starter, recipes for a few different types of bread, as well as pizza crust, will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can simply Google “sourdough [whatever type of bread you want to make]” and you’ll probably find a recipe that will work. I also suggest starting with this no-knead sourdough bread recipe.

Once you’ve tasted your first slice of homemade bread, you’ll never want to buy another loaf again.