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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.