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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I am delighting in my Christmas break. I wake up each morning and think about what I will bake or cook that day. I am able to fit exercise into my day. The chores blend in with the free time and don't seem so challenging. Joe has headed off to work at a winter camp for kids with Juvenile Diabetes. Matt is waiting to get back to college, where everything is more exciting than life on his parent's sofa. But while he is on the sofa, he is willing to eat anything I make and enjoys a good conversation. Emily is enjoying not studying. OK, so Tom had to go back to work. Not all of us are on school schedules.

The nativity scene in my front yard remains lit up and will remain lit up through the Epiphany. It was my Christmas present from my sons, who are skilled with power tools. Our old nativity scene had begun to warp and Joseph took a tumble whenever the winds picked up. We have to take care when we stake it in the ground that we don't impale the sprinkler system. We did that one year, a costly mistake.

My neighbors think that I have forgotten to take it down. I wish we would all enjoy Christmas a little longer, let the season linger. I think that I will make some gingerbread today, we haven't smelled that scent in the house this season.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My least favorite Bread 100% Sourdough Rye Bread BBA #32

I am enjoying vacation. There is little that must be done, which leaves a lot of time to enjoy life. I like being a school nurse, but it is nice to have a little break from the frantic pace. I am making my way through Rick Bayless' Mexico, One Plate at a Time. I made some sopas for lunch to go with the leftover Posole. Little tortillas cups, filled with roasted tomato green chili salas. We consumed them so quickly that I took no pictures. I think that my sopa shaping skills need to be developed. But the flavors were delicious. The book has great stories and tips from testers. It's fun to read.

Yesterday, I made some delicious sourdough bread to feed the minions and started the rye starter. Today, I worked on the rye bread. Or failed to have any effect on the rye bread. From the very start, the dough did not feel pleasant. I enjoy the smell and texture of dough, this bread felt like playdough, not enough elasticity. It took five hours to double. Shaping it into loaves was a little disconcerting. I really wasn't looking forward to the baking.

So, I went back to Rick Bayless and made the Tomatillo-Braised Pork Loin. Pork braised in a delicious roasted tomatillo sauce. Rick can handle more serranos than I can.

Dinner out of the way, I had to finish the bread. It didn't help when major stakeholder walked by the breads and said those are funny looking. There was minimal rise once the breads were shaped. They are singularly the least attractive loaves of bread that I have ever made. I could not find an image of Peter's loaves, perhaps his resembled cow pies as well.

Major stake holder thinks that the taste is ok. If you are looking for a dense, chewy loaf of bread, here's one for you.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Cookbook

I am a little addicted to cookbooks. I get a cookbook from my husband every Christmas. He surprised me with Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time. We had watched the Top Chef Masters TV show and I was impressed with how pleasant Rick Bayless seemed, how professional. It actually was amazing that the master chefs seemed to have a completely different vocabulary and way of treating each other than their younger counterparts.

So, my main stakeholder is addicted to Mexican food. To his credit, I am not sure if he has ever bought me a Mexican cookbook. I decided to start with his favorite soup, Pozole. Rick Bayless' pozole is a pork and hominy stew. The broth takes some time to make. And, you have to buy pork feet, or trotters. Rick recommends fresh or frozen nixtamal corn or dried pozole. I couldn't find either here in San Antonio. I have since located a source for mailordered dried pozole . I'll probably order some for next time, there are a few more specialty stores that I want to try. Any way, I used canned hominy, rinsed well. It had a delicious flavor.

I'm enjoying reading the cookbook, the stories, the respect for the food and the cooking. Great fun.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the Christmas season. With any luck, most years I have done all of the Christmas shopping and can spend the day baking and cooking and watching the comings and goings. I make Christmas Tree Coffee cakes for Christmas morning and some for neighbors. Then I start working on dinner.

We always start with Paula Dean's Foolproof standing rib roast. You just count back 4.5 hours from when you want to serve the roast and follow her directions to have a delicious, incredibly easy Prime Rib Roast ready for you. There is a time when the oven is off for three hours and this is when we head to church.

We have a buffet when we come home from church, a last minute, everyone make something buffet. Matt makes a tray with proscuitto and sausages, Joe and Emily make a cheese and cracker tray and throw some pigs in the blanket in the oven. Tom generally makes some sauteed spicy shrimp and I make stuffed mushrooms.

This year I decided to make some Gougeres. Food & Wine had a recipe by Jacques Pepin and I substituted Manchego cheese. They were delicious. They will be making a return next Christmas.

I made some stuffed mushrooms. I stuffed the tops with sauteed mushroom stems, roasted garlic, bacon, cream cheese, s&P, and a little bread crumbs. A tasty morsel.

I decided to make Ina Garten's shrimp cocktail this year. This is one of the easiest, tastiest shrimp cocktail recipes. Roasted in the oven, they have a great flavor. The cocktail sauce is delicious. Maybe I made mine a little too spicy, everyone ate them.

We had a great evening, munching away, enjoying each others' company.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

I have helped my mother make these for Christmas for as long as I can remember. I started with simple chores, watching to see if the milk scalds or sifting the flour and eventually I could make them all on my own. I don't sift the flour, I use bread flour. My mother's looked nicer than mine because she bought the candied red and green cherries and cut them in half and used them to decorate the tree.
No one in my house eats candied fruits so I don't buy them.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake
1/2 cup warm water
2 envelopes of yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2t salt
1/2 c shortening
2 eggs, lightly beaten
7 to 71/2 c bread or regular flour

brown sugar
chopped nuts
softened butter

powdered sugar
vanilla extract

Add the yeast to the warm water, 110 degrees, set aside. Scald the milk. Put it in a 4 quart pan over medium heat and heat until a skim appears on the top of the milk. Take the pan off the heat. Add the shortening, sugar, salt to the warm milk. Stir until the shortening dissolves. Add flour, one cup at a time to four cups, the mixture should have cooled some. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture. Add more flour. At around six cups of flour, either transfer to mixer or begin kneading. You should make a delightful soft dough. Let it rise until double. The recipe makes two large trees or three small trees. The large feeds my family of five. Decide how you are going to divide the dough. Then roll it into a 1/4" thick rectangle. Dab the dough with butter about 1-2 tablespoons. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Roll into a long snake and shape into the tree. Let rise until double and Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Decorate with powdered sugar thinned with milk.

And there you have it, Christmas breakfast! I'm sending this to Bread Baking Day for their baking under the tree celebration.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Biscuits and Canadian Bacon and Cheese

I made James Beard's biscuits this morning. Boy are they delicious. Unfortunately, I will never be making them again. A simple mixture of flour, salt, baking powder and over a cup of heavy cream, they are dipped into melted butter before you bake them.

They were delicious but you only have one set of arteries. There has to be a more reasonable, equally tasty, recipe out there. I added a little Canadian bacon and cheese to see if I could give my main stakeholder something to do at the gym...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy

So, I'm not from the south. Biscuits and gravy have no draw for me. But my husband is more than willing to try any food from any where. Where every we have lived, he embraces the local cuisine. We have lived a couple places where biscuits and gravy are available. He enjoys biscuits and gravy but normally eats healthy cereal and bananas.

But, I'm on vacation and thought that I would make some breakfast. I ordered a cookbook that I wanted for some time that is out of print, The Farm House Cookbook, by Susan Herrman Loomis. I got a used paperback copy. The Amazon review had mentioned that it had artery clogging breakfast. Why not whip some up before he headed off for the gym?

So, they aren't really difficult to make. Take some pork sausage, season it with sage, salt, pepper, I added a little chili powder. Make some patties, cook them and then use the dripping and the sausage bits left in the pan to make a gravy. I tried the biscuit recipe that she has in her book, which she says isn't as fluffy as some so it can stand up to the sausage and gravy. I have had better biscuits. Emily loves biscuits, I'll try another recipe tomorrow.

Scout found the whole hot breakfast in the morning idea fascinating.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New York Deli Rye BBA challenge

My starters are all happy on my counter. The BBA starter just took a little extra time to reach a point where I would be willing to try it in a recipe. Once it was doubling and bubbling I decided to try it in the New York Deli Rye. An unusual bread. You add the barm, which seems a lot like starter to me, to some white rye flour, water, cooked cooled diced onions and oil and make a starter that you leave out for four hours and then refrigerate.

The next day, I took the starter out of the refrigerator and left it on the counter for an hour. Then I added high gluten flour, white rye flour, brown sugar, salt, yeast, shortening, buttermilk and water to form a soft mass. This was let to sit for 5 mins to let the gluten develop. Which by the way, I can't see, can't tell, just hope I am doing it correctly. The I used my mixer for four mins to make a firm, tacky dough. It took two hours for it to double.

A few years ago, I got some large calphalon bread pans at a discount store. Too large for your average recipe, they have come in handy with the BBA challenge. I divided this into two and made two beautiful loafs.

However, I think if I blind folded you and gave you a taste, you wouldn't guess rye bread. Tasty bread, but not what I would say was rye bread. I am waiting to see what everyone else thinks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Basic Sourdough BBA#30

Just what the doctor ordered, a piece of toast. One I had to wait days to try...

In my refrigerator I have two starters, my trustworthy King Arthur Sourdough Starter. And my starter that I had made by following Paul's instructions on his blog, The Yumarama Artisan Bread Blog. I made Paul's starter after I failed at Peter Reinhart's BBA seed culture. I knew we were approaching sourdoughs so I decided to wake everybody up, see how they were performing and try the BBA starter one more time. About Day three my BBA seed culture was unimpressive. My King Arthur starter had spent a little too much time neglected and it needed a couple more feedings to get back that lovely aroma. But my pineapple starter, Eve, was ready to go.

I wanted to time this bread so I had some for my main stake holder who had to spend the week on travel. I don't know many people who actually enjoy traveling anymore. And a week away is a long time. He is a sourdough lover. It would be great to have fresh bread and cheese ready for when he got home.

Life had different plans. Wednesday I was a little under the weather, unusual for me because I think my years as a school nurse has exposed me to just about everything out there. Thursday I thought I was in The Alien, when the thing pops out of her abdomen. Friday I wasn't going to be doing any baking. It wasn't until Monday when I finally went to the doctors when I discovered that I had food poisoning. Probably something I ate during my let's see how many cheap places we can eat at while your dad is gone stage. It is amazing what antibiotics can do.

This is not a quick bread. But Saturday I thought I would get started. Once you have your barm ready, you need to make a firm starter. You add the barm to some flour and water and let it ferment for four hours, or maybe 8 it is all going to depend on how your starter and kitchen environment are on the day you make it. We were having record breaking cold temperatures. However in about four hours I had doubled the firm starter. Into the fridge for the night, which Peter says is very important for the flavor. Sometimes I wonder if we spend too much time in the fridge.

The next day, the starter is allowed to warm up and then added to flour, salt and water. It made a firm, tacky dough. I decided it was best to do it all in the mixer, but this really gave my mixer a work out.

It was allowed to ferment for four hours, actually five until it had double in size and then shaped and allowed to proof for three more hours. This is an all day bread. I wished that I had a banneton. I made boules. Which were baked in the hearth baking style we have come to expect.

This bread had the best color and crust of any of my breads thus far.

Two days later, I start to think that I could eat some toast. Is there any bread in the house? One loaf is completely gone, half a loaf remains. It was delicious.

The BBA seed culture actually seems to be taking off. Maybe it will be ready for the rye bread.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pugliese Two Ways BBA # 29

This is a rustic bread. It is made with durum flour blended with bread flour. It has a high hydration status. I am getting a little more comfortable working with the very wet breads.

This bread starts with a biga. To it you add durum flour and bread flour, salt, yeast and the optional mashed potatoes. I happened to have some left overs, so in they went. The water was added to form a smooth, sticky dough. The dough was put on a floured square and stretched- and folded by very floury hands and left to rest three times. The third time, it fermented for two hours. After the two hours, the dough was shaped into boules. I made one boule and saved the rest for pizza. Shaping was interesting. It does not hold it shape well.

The boule was put in a proofing bowl, allowed to proof for 90 more minutes and then the loaf was turned out onto the parchment paper. It was a bit like working with the blob. I found it difficult to score. This is my first time working with the lame. I had better luck with the exacto knife. It was then baked in the oven that had been prepared for hearth baking.

Later that afternoon, I put it on the counter with a knife and some cheese and started to prepare dinner. I turned around and their was one piece left. It was delicious.

The pizzas were tasty too. I had a little more luck shaping them then I did with the pizza recipe in the BBA book.


Friday, November 27, 2009


Mags at The Other Side of Fifty was writing about how much her cooking skills have changed over the years and I was thinking about mine while I made our Thanksgiving dinner. Mags cooked the most beautiful dinner rolls that Frieda at Lovin' from the oven says are one of the most versatile recipes ever. They looked so good on Mags' post, I had to give them a try.

I wonder how many people are cleaning their ovens today? Part of cooking the perfect turkey was putting it in the oven at 400 degrees. That makes for a dirty oven. In 2003, Alton Brown had an article on the perfect turkey in Bon Appetit. He brines his and we have been brining ours ever since reading that article. When I first started cooking, I cooked my turkey until the red button popped up. I now use a thermometer.

I have always made my gravy from the drippings. Now I make a broth the day before out of all of the giblets and aromatics and use that to make the gravy.

Some of the sides I make have varied little from how my parents made them. I have never made mashed potatoes from a box. However I now add a little roasted garlic to the potatoes for an added kick. I used to make cranberries from the recipe on the bag, frequently I try an alternate. This year, I found a recipe on Lick My Spoon for Aunt Louise's cranberry relish. The garlic, shallots and jalepenos are amazing. I did not add the cilantro at the end, I enjoyed the taste so much without it.

I started making Pepperidge Farms stuffing from a bag and putting it in the turkey. In 1995, I made a Bread Stuffing with Mushrooms and Leeks We will never have another dressing. There is so much celery, leeks and mushrooms in the dressing, it is amazing.

I grew up having hubbard squash for dinner. It has been hard to find hubbards in Texas. Some years, I get one, some years I don't. My dad would chop it up and my mother would steam it.

I take it on to the back patio.

Put the dog in the house, because she would lick it to see if there was any hope for it, and I drop it. Then I brush the chunks with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them in the oven. I would miss squash if we didn't have it, my kids would not.

My parents grew up in New England. I think that influenced our Thanksgiving meal. We have creamed onions. You take tiny pearl onions and peel them. I put them briefly in boiling water, which makes it easier to peel them. Then you return the peeled onions to boiling water and cook them until tender. You make a white sauce with equal part of butter and flour and let that cook for a couple mins then slowly add milk and salt and pepper until I have a thick and creamy white sauce. Finish with a touch of nutmeg. Delicious. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them.

Desserts are probably the most varied thing in my house. We aren't big dessert people, have formed no real attachments. Some of us live for the mashed potatoes and gravy. I make a pumpkin cheese cake. I have tried different recipes, they are all good. I try a different apple pie recipe every year.

I love the idea of traditions, passed on from generation to generation, mixed with some new recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My sons should be home by now. Matt has a Tuesday night class and went to the professor and asked him if he was going to cancel class or if Matt could miss it. The professor informed him that there was no way that he was going to cancel class and if Matt skipped it, he would receive a zero. So I booked tickets for the boys to fly home early Wednesday morning. About a week ago, the professor found out that he had Thanksgiving plans and canceled the class.

I am driving myself crazy waiting for them. I had some errands to do, a trip to Costco to pick up some wine, grapes and cheese. Joe has an affinity towards umami. His favorite condiment may be soy sauce and he needs a certain amount of aged cheese to be happy.

They both like spice cookies, so I made a batch and then I made the mistake of telling everyone that the cookies were for the boys. Which apparently, was poor form. I'm not sure that I understand how, since Emily and Tom get to eat everything that I cook and the boys get to read about it.

But the constant question, what to cook for dinner, was lurking. I had some left over chicken from last night's roast. For years I made something that Matt called ingredients, who knows why. You saute onion, mushrooms and celery in about 4 tablespoons of butter. Then you add four tablespoon of flour, cook to burn off the flour taste and add milk or half and half until you make a thick creamy mixture. The leftover chopped up chicken, salt, pepper and whatever herbs you have around are added. This was a favorite before we started eating more and having less leftover chicken. Quick and easy and a good way to use leftover poultry.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gravy for Matt

Matt, or as he prefers to be addressed, number one son, is allergic to turkey. I am sad to confess that for years I have been making homemade gravy for the rest of family and giving him chicken gravy from a jar. Tom cooks Matt's alternate protein on the grill or in the smoker. There aren't any drippings and it is just easier to buy the jar.

The other night, Matt and some college friends had a Thanksgiving feast at their apartment. Matt made the gravy. When he thought he had it close to where he wanted it, because of his allergy he had to call his friend Garrett over to try it. I've fed some of Matt's friends, they will eat anything. They are college rowers and are as far as can tell, perpetually hungry. I'm not sure how sophisticated Garrett's palate is, I do know that he would be a willing taste tester.

Any way I felt sorry for Matt when I heard that he was unable to eat his own gravy. I decided to make him some for his beer can chickens. First I bought a roasting chicken and put the giblets, the edible offal of a fowl, with some onion, celery, bay leaf and water into a pan and simmered it for an hour.

The bay plant in my backyard is making its way towards the second story. It typically grows to about five feet, but can grow to sixty. I guess that I have the sixty foot conditions. It does like a hard pruning in the autumn.

I decided to roast the chicken for our dinner, I need its drippings for Matt's gravy. Cooks Illustrated recommended 15 mins on one side, 15 mins on the other and then breast up for a succulent bird. I'm always willing to try a new way to roast a chicken.

There is one problem with my plan, at the end of the evening, I will have a roast chicken and fresh gravy. How will I convince Tom and Emily that they will enjoy the gravy in the jar?

Once the chicken was roasted, I got rid of the fat. I added a half a cup of water to the dripping then some butter and flour, simmered to heat off the flour flavor and then added the broth. I let it cook to thicken and now have a delicious container of chicken gravy waiting for Matt and a roast chicken for dinner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Potato Rosemary Bread BBA #28

I had been looking forward to making this bread for some time. I like rosemary and roasted garlic and have a favorite roll recipe that uses mashed potatoes. I had high hopes for it.

Yesterday, I made the biga and left it in the refrigerator over night. I woke up early and started roasting garlic. The house was soon filled with a delicious aroma. I cooked some potatoes and assembled the mis en place. The biga was cut into smaller pieces and allowed to come to room temperature. Then it was combined with flour, salt, black pepper, yeast, mashed potatoes, rosemary and water. I used my mixer to form a soft and supple dough. The dough fermented until doubled in size and then I divided it into one large loaf and eight small rolls. These were again allowed to double in size and then they were baked.

I wish you could have smelled them baking. What an aroma. When the bread came out of the oven, Scout came around the corner. Scout has an affinity for bread products. We don't give them to her, but as an intelligent labrador she is always looking for opportunity. She has been known to steal any bread products left unattended. I believe that she thinks that some day I will come to my senses and recognize her as an equal with full rights to anything that comes out of the oven. Today would not be that day.

I had reached the most challenging part of Mr. Reinhart's recipes, the mandatory cooling period. We are getting better at waiting. However, at this moment Emily woke up, drawn by the aroma, she was staring at the rolls. I can't stand the thought of a hungry child, so I gave her one. She made the mistake of deliberately walking by her father who was unable to understand why she could have a roll and he couldn't. Somehow, we started down that slippery slope and there almost weren't any rolls left to photograph. They were delicious. I am looking forward to making the loaf into sandwiches. My main stakeholder says that this may indeed be his favorite, but I have heard that before.

My backyard has turned into a jungle. The rains after the drought have all the plants confused. They are having an unusual growing spirt considering it is fall. My rosemary has added inches, my bay tree will soon take over the house, the basil is going wild, even the mandevilla is blooming. I had thought that I would photograph the rolls in the rosemary so you could see the lush growth.

Scout felt for sure this was her time. Who puts food down in the backyard and doesn't give it to her? She is sulking in the corner right now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Portuguese Sweet Bread BBA # 27

This is a one day bread, assuming you have six and a half hours free. Which, I actually did. I got up early and made the sponge. The mixture of flour, sugar, yeast and water bubbled away for an hour. Then I mixed sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, shortening together until it was nice and creamy. I was glad that I had a mixer and not a wooden spoon. Then I added eggs and was supposed to add both orange and lemon extract. Too close to the panettone experience, I chose to add lemon zest and vanilla extract. The sponge, additional flour and water were added and the dough was mixed for about 12 minutes by the mixer.

It made a very supple, fun to work with, dough. At this point it was left to rise for two hours. After two hours, I shaped it into three boules with the intention of giving some or all of it away. There is a limit to the bread that can be in my life. Left to rise for three hours, slowly but steadily they rose. While I went off to hike in the park, fill the car with gas, run several other errands. This is not a quick process.

Then they were baked for 30 mins, less time than the book, but mine were smaller. About this time, the plumbers showed up. We wanted to replace one of our toilets with a low flow toilet. They were thrilled by the aroma, better than much of the things that they smell. Then they went to work, ruining the lovely bread baking aroma and informing us that there was a flange that needed to be repaired, did we want them to do that. No I want you to leave the gaping hole with the fumes in my floor... How many people say no to this question? Oh, did I mention it would cost four hundred more dollars! They quickly went about their business and soon all was well in my world.

The delicious aroma of bread fresh from the oven filled the air. Not surprising, I had to try this bread before the recommended 90 minute cooling period. I really like this bread, I am surprised at how much I like this bread. I like it so much that I realized how much I like it I had to give it away, quickly. The plumbers looked quite happy when I handed them a loaf. I am already planning breakfast. Pass the nutella.

Poolish Baguettes

These baguettes started with a poolish, a thick pancake batter like mixture of flour, water and yeast. The poolish spent the night in the refrigerator. Then whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt, yeast and water was added. Formed into a soft dough, it was allowed to ferment for two hours. After it had doubled, it was kneaded and allowed to ferment for an additional two hours and then it was formed into baguettes, which you won't be surprised were allowed to ferment for an hour. Then they were baked.

This was not my favorite loaf. I prefer the french bread recipe or the pain a l'ancienne. We had them that night with pasta and they did not fly from the table as some of the other breads have. Maybe we are breaded out. Or maybe the adults realize Thanksgiving is coming. We need to pace ourselves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pain de Mie

Pain de Mie is a sandwich loaf, or pullman loaf. Baked in a long rectangular pan, it makes a perfect slicing loaf. King Arthur was having a sale on their pain de mie pan. They have apparently come out with a newer version. I had been intrigued by the pan for some time and couldn't resist the sale, which is no longer going on.

But I have been caught up with the breads of the BBA challenge and hadn't a chance to give the pan a try. However, the major stakeholder is upset. He said that we didn't have good closure with the Panettone. By good closure he means he didn't enjoy it. He came home from work one day bemoaning that fact that there was no bread available.

This is a man who honestly prefers white bread to any other type of bread. Panettone is pretty far away from white bread. He had some fairly onerous paperwork to take care of. So I took pity on him. I used the King Arthur recipe. It was fun to make something that only took a morning to come together. I ran off to get my hair cut while it was baking. The major stakeholder is quite good with a thermometer, he uses them while he grills. He did a great job of removing the bread from the oven and surprisingly waited until I came home to photograph it before eating any of the bread.

It made delicious sandwiches. I prefer the multigrain extraordinaire for sandwich bread and I do all the baking so it is what will be in the oven. But for those days when you want grilled cheese on white, this is an easy recipe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I love fall. I grew up watching the trees change colors, wearing sweaters and tights to school, watching your breath in the morning. Here in Texas, we kind of slide into winter. The days are milder, there are more highs of only 80. Last night it actually got down to 50. It is a very pleasant change from the heat of the summer, but it doesn't seem like fall.

Because we found ourselves with an extra hour, we went for a hike this morning. The park was filled with flowers and plants that have been rejuvenated by the recent rains.

Scout was excited. She tolerates the paved path, but really enjoys the limestone trails. We may all have twisted our ankles, but somehow it seems more like real hiking to get off the paved paths.

There were tons of butterflies dancing around. American Snout butterflies are abundant after the recent rains. Monarchs fly higher, more intent on heading to Mexico.

A beautiful fall day in Texas. I've decided that the best way to convince my mind that it is fall is to eat orange foods... I love squash. Butternut squash soup is easy and delicious. Saute some leeks or onions in some butter. Peel a squash, scrape out the pulp and seeds, cut the squash into chunks. Add to the pan with the leeks and cover with chicken broth, simmer until tender, puree the squash, add salt and pepper and enjoy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Panettone BBA #24

There was no escaping it, I knew I'd have to make the Panettone. No more excuses. This is a two day bread. On day one the candied fruit mixture had to be prepared, mixed with alcohol and extracts. I couldn't bring myself to purchase candied fruit, so a mixture of dried cranberries, cherries and golden raisins were added to brandy, vanilla and orange extract. Several options for liquors were suggested to flavor the fruit. I actually have a wide variety of alcohol left over from our wedding. My young adults inform me that all the labels have changed from when we were married. So Tom and I got married before there were ipods, cd players, or google. I am hoping that the alcohol doesn't care how old it is and has aged nicely. I added vanilla to the mixture. Peter prefers the Fiori di Sicilia, a blend of extracts and floral oils. However, I was fairly certain that I would not enjoy the bread, so I couldn't see spending additional money when vanilla would work just fine. This was part of my problem with the bread. I'm not found of fruits in bread and I'm not that fond of alcohol unless it is in a margarita or dry wine. When I started with the panettone, I was afraid that I was making cough syrup. Medicinal, fruity. Pleasantly getting drunk on my counter. I added the orange flavor. I bought the tiniest amount I could, two 2ml vials from Dr. Oetker. The mixture sat on the counter overnight.

A mixture of milk, barm and flour was allowed to ferment at room temperature for four hours and then spend the night in the refrigerator. In the morning, it sat on the counter to take the chill off.

With the ingredients ready, the bread was easy to assemble. The starter and fruit were added to flour, sugar, salt, yeast, almonds, eggs and butter. The dough was allowed to rise and then shaped and allowed to rise again.

It took less time for the loaves to reach the 185 recommended internal temperature. The final results met with mixed reviews. The teenager wanted to know what all the stuff was in them. She won't eat raisins in cinnamon buns, what did I expect. The main stakeholder said that they weren't as bad as he expected. Me, it is a nice loaf. Tastes like alcohol and fruit, unfortunately.

There is one family member who thinks that the house is filled with a wonderful aroma, sure to be an enjoyable bread...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pizza Napoletana BBA#25

So, I went on a retreat last weekend. A peaceful, calm experience, until one of my friends broke my reflection and asked if I was going to fall behind with my bread baking! But I had a plan. The Panettone looks like it needs a little attention, in my mind it is an uptight bread, despite the addition of a large amount of alcohol. It needs coddling. But pizza dough generally is quite forgiving.

Yesterday I had a few minutes in the morning. I was dressed for work but thought that I could get the pizza dough in the refrigerator. I cannot bake without covering myself or my kitchen with a certain amount of flour.I put on my beautiful apron. One of my friends brought it back from Holland. It reminds me of the traditional clothing that her grandmothers wore. The bodice of their clothing is called a kraplap. This apron is made from material that would be used in the kraplap. Not that I long for traditional clothing, but I love the idea of grandma's teaching their daughters or sons recipes which get passed down from generation to generation.

Protected from the flour, I made the dough. It was quite quick and easy. High-gluten flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and ice cold water. The dough was definitely springy, elastic and sticky. I had to resist the urge to add more flour. I divided it into six pieces and put them in the refrigerator.

Last night, when I told the main stakeholder that there was pizza dough in the refrigerator, getting ready for tomorrow night's dinner, he could barely hide his delight. He was quite insistent that we make the classic pizza, the pizza margarita, sauce, tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella and basil. But with six pieces of dough, why limit ourselves to one flavor?

An hour before dinner, I put the pizza stone in the oven and cranked it up. I am wondering how many home cooks will be able to hit the 800 degrees that Peter suggests...I called the alarm company to disconnect the fire alarm from the fire department and we set up our assembly. The dough was easy to shape, but transferring from the back of a cookie sheet to the stone was challenging. I found myself wishing for yet another kitchen tool, the peel.

It was a very soft dough, much like the ciabatta. I never got a pizza to transfer into a shape that remained round on the stone although the family thinks that I made a fair replica of Africa. I am recovering from a nasty burn, that accompanied "prepare your oven for hearth baking." So I was a little more cautious with my dough transfer. Pizza number four folded on itself, spilling some of it's sauce and cheese onto the pizza stone. When I opened the oven to put in the fifth pizza I finally did it, I set off the fire alarm. The dog could not decide if she should be begging for pizza or howling with the alarm. The good news is, the firemen did not show up, we did not have to share our pizza.

I have made doughs that were easier to handle, but this was delicious. The main stakeholder has quite a flair at pizza design.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pane Siciliano BBA #23

This is a three day bread. It starts with the familiar pate fermentee. On day two, the dough is formed by adding bread flour and semolina flour, salt, yeast olive oil, honey and water. It is formed into a dough that is supple and smooth. Left to rise for two hours and then formed into 24" baguettes. The baguettes are then rolled into an S shape. I really enjoy shaping breads. I had fun last week with the epis and curving the S shapes and watching them rise was satisfying. The breads were put in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, the oven is prepared for hearth baking and then breads are baked until they are golden brown. I happened to have a room full of teenagers who had heard about my unusual obsession with bread baking. They were completely bewildered as to why anyone would bake their way through a bread book. They feigned polite interest at my beautiful S shapes and said that they thought that you could buy my bread at Central Market. Central Market is our upscale grocery store. I think that the BBA breads have a deeper flavor than what you could find there, but I took it as the compliment that they intended.

This is a very tasty bread and I am happy to start the week with three loaves. This is the perfect slice of bread for nutella.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

World Bread Day October 16th

October 16th is world bread day. It was an easy event to enter. Bake a bread for the event, blog about it and submit it by October 17th. The bread has to be a bread baked just for world bread day.

The confusion was in my mind. What bread to choose? The latest edition of Bon Appetit has several bread recipes that look very intriguing. There are a couple of recipes that I have on my to do list. But I was looking for something easy, that every one liked.

King Arthur's blog posted an article about chicken goditas. I have never made the gorditas or tried the one's at Taco Bell. Living in Texas, we enjoy being able to run into our favorite Mexican restaurants. We are spoiled. But the flat bread recipe is one of our all time favorites.

It makes a soft sandwich wrap that you can fill with any number of fillings. I make them at the beginning of the week and store them in a plastic bag to use for sandwiches throughout the week.

It is an unusual recipe in that you dump boiling water on some of the flour, cooking some of the starch and making a soft dough. The recipe calls for potato flour or buds, which adds an interesting flavor. An easy recipe, with lots of uses.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

October's Daring Cook's challenge was suggested by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen. Cooks could chose between a chicken or beef pho. In her cookbook, she has a recipe for quick Vietnamese Pho that uses store bought chicken stock, but I decided to make the stock from scratch. She provided a link to her Pho Ga for the daring cooks who wanted to try their hand at making stock.

Jaden says that the stock has two important steps, parboiling the chicken and roasting the ginger and garlic. Parboiling the chicken for five minutes, dumping the water, cleaning the chicken and then getting rid of the scum seemed to remove a large amount of the stuff that floats to the top during the normal broth making process. Roasting the onion and ginger filled the house with an amazing aroma. I had never roasted ginger and was impressed with the intensity of flavor that it produced.

Once the chicken was parboiled, the roasted onion, ginger and coriander, cloves, anise, fish sauce, sugar and cilantro were added to the broth. The broth was simmered for 2.5 hours and skimmed of impurities every 15 minutes. The chicken breasts were removed after 15 minutes and served with the finished product.

The broth was brought to the table with rice noodles, bean sprouts, chicken broth, shredded red onion, cilantro, and lime. It was enjoyed by all.

Jaden also posted a dessert challenge; wonton wrappers any shape, any filling. We experimented with a variety of fillings and decided the nutella, banana combination was our favorite. We did not rise to the challenge of unusual shapes or fillings, its a challenge alone for us to make dessert!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy 16th Birthday Emily!

If you were one of my kids you wouldn't like birthday cake. I don't think that it is a genetic trait, certainly not a dominant gene since both my husband and I enjoy cake. I guess it could be a recessive trait, but it would be unusual for all three kids to share it.

I blame it all on Matthew. When Matthew was a toddler, he had very definite opinions about what he would eat. He wouldn't eat chicken fingers, he'd eat the grilled sword fish from his parents' plates. He wouldn't eat boxed macaroni and cheese, he'd eat stuffed shells. He loved melons and ice cream. Which is what he ate for his birthday. By the time his brother came around, Matt had dissed many delicious cakes. I believe that he forced his obsession with ice cream onto Joe. Emily didn't have a chance to develop a normal birthday cake routine. However, if there was birthday pie, my kids would be all over it.

So for Emily's 16th birthday we had delicious brownies, ice cream, fudge sauce, strawberries and whipped cream. It worked for her.

Dinner was Ina Garten's chicken pot pie . I thought that I made good chicken pot pie, until I tried this recipe. Some times we look for recipes that say you are special, I celebrate you. This is one of those recipes. Well worth the effort.

Pain de Campagne

I have been looking forward to making this bread. It is, like many of the breads in the Bread Baking Apprentice, a two day bread. You start with the pate fermentee, a mixture of flour, salt, yeast and water, which is refrigerated for a day.

Early in the morning, I got up, cut it into ten pieces and let it sit on the counter to take the chill off.

Then you add the pate fermentee to flour, whole wheat flour, salt, yeast and water. Forming another dough, which ferments for two hours. When the dough has doubled in size, about two hours, the fun begins. This dough is easy to shape and Reinhart has beautiful pictures of several possible shapes.

The epi is shaped like a wheat sheaf. Here is where I made my mistake. The dough should have been shaped into a baguette, allowed to proof and right before it went into the oven, cut with scissors. Somehow I failed to follow the precise directions and cut the baguette and then let it proof. I lost some of the definition of the cuts.

I will need to try this again. I will cut down on the amount of salt. Between the pate fermentee and the pain, it has 1.5 teaspoons of salt, which is a little too much for me. Next time, I will forewarn the fire department and preheat the oven a little higher. I got a nicer brown on the pain a l'ancienne. I do wonder what the alarm company thinks. Does there conversation go.... she called again, every weekend when she cooks, she calls us to shut off the fire alarm, when will she learn?

We devoured one of the loaves and have two waiting for dinner.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pain a l"Ancienne BBA #21

There are 43 recipes in the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. Why am I baking my way through this book? Late at night, when I can't sleep, I would look through food blogs. I have several favorites and some of them blogged that they had signed up for the challenge to bake their way through the book. Way ahead of me technologically, they were alerted by twitter and formed the original 200 blogroll. Nicole of Pinch My Salt posted the challenge, I found it appealing. And if I was going to bake my way through the book, I was going to document my trip. Someone posted a list of suggested dates, and you know that I am drawn to a list like a moth to a flame. So here I am.

With the majority of the egg enriched breads behind us, I have been looking forward to this part of the book. The write ups of the breads draw me in and make me want me to try the recipe. Except for the Panettone, who wants to eat a bread filled with golden raisins and candied fruits?

So Peter Reinhart writes that the cold mixing and fermentation cycles evokes a fullness of flavor from the wheat. This new technique opens a new frontier in bread baking. He says that 'this is an exciting place to find oneself, like standing at the end of the world, facing the words, as so often showed up on ancient maps, "Unknown Kingdoms Be Here"' He lives in an interesting world.

Like the majority of his breads, this bread takes two days to make. On Friday, I came home from work, threw my clothes in the washer, took a shower and then started baking. Germ phobic or a sensible school nurse in flu season...
Ice cold water, flour, salt and yeast are combined and mixed in the bowl. It is a wet dough, which ferments in the refrigerator over night. Then I moved on to make the mocha fudge cake from The Frog/Commissary Cookbook. It has to chill overnight or up to one week. I'll have to write that up later.

Saturday was a crazy day. I had read that the dough may take more like 4 hours to double once you took it out of the refrigerator, so I timed the doubling around errands. When it had doubled, I prepared my oven for hearth baking, which we all know seems like an invitation for disaster. To prepare the oven for hearth baking first I call the alarm company and turn off the connection to the fire department. My fire alarm is a little sensitive and once it goes off, there are firemen in the front yard. Next you put the pan in the oven for the steam. Then Peter invited us to heat our oven to 550, if they go that high. Do you ever look at your speedometer and wonder if your car goes as fast as the numbers on the dial. There is a 550 on my oven...

I dumped the bread on the counter and divided it into four with a bread scraper. Paul, at the Yumarama Artisan Bread blog, referred to the dough as worms and it stuck in my head. They had little shape. The pieces barely had form, transferring them from the sheetpan to the baking stone by way of the parchment in the 550 degree oven was challenging. The loaves stretched and their tales baked on the racks.

I poured the water in the steam pan, sprayed the walls and turned the temp down. after 8 mins I rotated the breads and set the timer for 10 mins. The breads were almost over browned. 207 degrees internally, but next time I will only preheat to 500. And just out of curiosity, at what temperature to you think parchment paper catches on fire?

These breads only have a 20 minute cooling time. You would think that we could wait that long, but we couldn't. We had to break a piece off, they were delicious. Filled with holes, nice crust. We got home late Saturday, had some bread, cheese and wine waiting for us.

Throughout the BBA blogroll, this bread has met with mixed reviews. Here are some links to check out.

The Yumarama Bread Blog

I Can Do That!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marbled Rye Bread

Well, the shipment of assorted flours and unusual tools finally made its way across the country. I decided not to wait for the weekend to start baking. I knew if I hurried home from work and started the dough I would have enough time to finish. The dough was straight forward. You make two batches of dough that differ only in their coloring. I bought the caramel coloring from KA. It is an incredibly dark, cornstarch like powder. It has a bitter taste straight from the container, but I couldn't taste it in the loaf. I used two tablespoons.

Once the dough has fermented, I used the alternating layers method from the BBA book to form the bulls eyes. I have two large loaf pans that were perfect for the loaves. They rose to a nice shape, baked up in the oven. They were almost finished. We were force to go to bed without sampling the finished product.

My main stakeholder is enjoying this rye bread. We reviewed the breads up to this point and although we could find a few that we won't be baking again, we cannot determine a clear winner. The multigrain extraordinaire, the foccacio, the italian bread are in the running for favorite. My husband would add this rye bread to the list.