It’s officially fall, and the weather in Seattle the past few days has really driven that point home. This weekend’s gray skies and cool weather put me in the mood to turn on the oven and bake! Lucky for me, I had plenty of opportunities to do so.

On Saturday, my knitting group hosted a bake sale to raise money for the Obama campaign. This definitely wasn’t your typical bake sale. The knitters’ plan was to target the late night bar crowd on Pike Street in the center of Capitol Hill’s clubs and bars. Pitching baked goods to hipsters and drunks? Genius! I helped out by making Heidi Swanson’s peanut butter cookies. I’m not really into vegan baked goods, but these looked so yummy that I couldn’t resist. They turned out a bit softer than I normally like but had plenty of delicious peanut butter flavor. I finished my cookies with a light dusting of gray sea salt (I wasn’t trying to be fancy or anything; I just know that drunks are drawn to salty foods.) I couldn’t participate in the sale itself, but we stopped by for a quick visit and got to witness plenty of zany late night action and a number of sales too (some people even asked for vegan treats – woo hoo!) It was surely a lot of work (the bake sale ran until 2:00 AM) but the team raked in a whopping $400. Good job knitters!

Cookies are easy to make, but bread is another story and my bread-making skills have proven to be pretty mediocre so far. My sister, on the other hand, is slowly becoming an expert so we decided to get together on Sunday for a bread-making day. Our first bread of the day was a ciabatta. This can be a tricky bread; mixing, shaping and baking the bread is actually very easy, but ciabatta has a tendency to form one huge air pocket inside rather than a bunch of small ones. Three out of our four loaves were plagued with this giant pocket problem, but the bread tasted so good we didn’t care. In addition to the ciabatta, we made sourdough rounds using my sister’s homemade starter as the base. We mixed the dough and shaped the loaves but didn’t bake them; in order to develop that signature sour flavor, the loaves need to sit overnight in the refrigerator. It was a great day – I learned quite a bit (especially about the benefits of folding and stretching the dough vs. punching it down) and I came home with two loaves of ciabatta, two uncooked loaves of sourdough and a little jar of starter. I baked the sourdough tonight and served it with a hearty soup – delicious!

While our breads were rising, we snuck off to Bakery Nouveau for lunch. Bakery Nouveau is widely regarded as one of Seattle’s best bakeries. What a place to go for some baking inspiration! Their breads are all beautiful and their croissants are like none that I’ve ever seen before – super crispy and browned, not soft and squishy like most croissants. I had a delicious caprese sandwich made with some kind of chewy, hearty bread. While we were there, they were passing out free samples of recently-baked items including a peanut butter cookie that completely put mine to shame (sorry vegans, cookies just aren’t the same without butter.)

Sunday evening, we headed over to our friend Jason’s house for more baked goods, this time in the form of pizza. Jason has been making pizza from scratch every week and has a clever method for making the crust. He grills the crust on one side on an outdoor grill and then adds the toppings and finishes the pizza in a hot oven. The grill gives the crust a subtle smoky flavor, but finishing it in the oven allows you to get the cheese nice and browned. Because the crust is partially cooked before it goes in the oven, there is no fear of it sticking to the pizza paddle (the tool used to transfer the pizza to the oven.) With this method, you could easily make a bunch of crusts at once and freeze them. Simply do the first step of grilling and then transfer the grilled crusts to the freezer. Next time you are craving pizza, it can be ready in mere moments! The pizzas were delicious, and I even got to make one myself. Fall kicked off to a carb-heavy start, but I’m perfectly okay with that!

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