Monday, December 28, 2009

So this is Christmas: Marshmallows!!


3 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 Tblsp. pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Confectioner's sugar for dusting (Made by storing a vanilla bean in a pound of confectioner's sugar a few weeks)

Mix gelatin and 1/2 c. water in a mixer bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/4 c. water in a small pan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Clip a candy thermometer to edge of pan and cook on high heat until mixture reaches 240 deg.  Slowly pour mixture into dissolved gelatin in mixer bowl with mixer on low speed and using the whisk attachment.  Whip on high speed about 12 to 15 minutes until mixture is very thick.  Mix in vanilla.

Dust generously an 8 x 12 non-metal baking dish with confectioner's sugar.  Pour the mixture into the dish, smoothing the top.  Dust with more confectioner's sugar.  Allow to stand overnight to dry out.

Turn marshmallows out onto a sugar-dusted board or marble slab.  Oil a knife (wipe off excess) and cut the marshmallows into squares.   Dust with more confectioner's sugar.  Delicious eaten plain or on hot cocoa!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Ghost Pie

Our first big snow of the season!  It's deep and it's beautiful.  The news keeps reporting this as a record snowfall for our area for this time of year.  It's expected to be our first White Christmas in 20 years here.  Most of my Christmas shopping is done, cookies are baked, cards have been mailed and the tree is going to be decorated tomorrow.  It looks like the roads will be cleared enough for our family to make it home by the end of the week.
With all that snow outside my window and a warm fire in the woodstove, I decided I'd better make our annual Snow Ghost pie today.  An old Hershey Chocolate advertisement told a story of the Snow Ghost.  It claimed you must make a snow ghost pie when you get the first real snow of the season and you have to leave a piece in a snow bank for the Snow Ghost.  If you do, he will bring more snow.  When my children were little we made a snow ghost pie every winter. Sometimes we were so busy we just mixed up chocolate pudding and put it in a pie shell, but we made sure we put a piece in a snowbank for the ghost. (Be careful  not to leave it where a passing dog can find it and eat the chocolate and get sick.)  I make my own crust sometimes, but today I used a premade Mrs. Smith's deep dish crust that I baked.  If you like chocolate pie, this is a really good one and makes plenty of filling--I had some extra that I ate while it was hot!  Yummmm. . . .


1 9-inch baked pastry shell
1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
3 Tblsp. butter
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
Sweetened whipped cream

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Gradually blend milk into dry ingredients, stirring until smooth.   Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until filling boils; boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat; blend in butter and vanilla.  Pout into pie crust.  Carefully press plastic wrap directly onto pie filling.  Cool.  Chill 3 to 4 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream.

It's late--I'm the only one still awake--the woodstove is warm with a crackling fire.  I'm going to make myself a hot cup of tea and have just one more piece of that pie and look for a Christmas movie on tv.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

BBA Challenge Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta is one of my very favorite breads.  It's chewy with a good crust.  I was so busy with Christmas things that I didn't concentrate enough on this bread today--I just put it together quickly.  I used the Poolish starter and read later that the Biga starter produces larger holes.  Also, I would add more water next time--I believe my dough could have been softer and still be workable.  I'd like it to be a little flatter and with more holes.  This bread rises with larger holes when the dough is as wet as it can be handled.  The end had big holes, as you can see, but it's more dense toward the center.  I haven't cut the second one yet--it feels light and airy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Magazine Mondays Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is a Russian dish that is delicious!  I found this recipe in Gourmet magazine, April 1994. (I keep some magazines a long time.)  I've made Chicken Kiev before, but I found today that I really love this version.  I changed it a little.  I left out the garlic the recipe calls for and used just a little onion salt in place of the minced fresh chives, since our chives are under at least 1-1/2 feet of snow today.  I also fried the chicken instead of deep-frying as the recipe calls for.  Along with the chicken, I tried Delta Kitchen's Sesame Spatzle.  It is really good.  Check that site for the recipe.  I used just a little garlic and added the sesame seeds at the end with the parsley.  I think it would be good without any garlic, actually.


1 stick butter, softened
1 Tblsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
a few shakes onion salt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large egg, beaten lightly with a little water
1 cup flour
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Mash together butter, parsley, onion salt, lemon juice and zest and a little salt.  Form into "fingers" about 1/2 inch in diameter and wrap in plastic and chill about an hour.  Cut chicken breasts in half to make thinner pieces.  Cut those in half again to make a total of 8 pieces.  Place each between plastic wrap and pound thin with a meat pounder.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.  Cut sections of the chilled butter a little shorter than the width of the chicken and roll the meat up like a jelly roll around the butter.  Press the edges and seam to enclose the butter.  Dip rolled chicken in flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.  Place all chicken pieces in a single layer on a plate and refrigerate to chill an hour.  Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet.  Brown the chicken on medium high until well browned on all sides.  Turn down the heat and cover the pan partially to allow the chicken to finish cooking all the way through. 

The original recipe calls for deep-frying instead of panfrying.  It also includes 1 tsp. minced garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt to be added to the butter when mixing.  Instead of the onion salt, the recipe calls for adding 1 Tblsp. minched fresh chives.

Simple green beans finished out this meal. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Cookies Apricot-filled

We have been baking these cookies for many years.  My husband's mother gave me the recipe.  She was Italian with parents who came over from Parma.  These cookies were popular in the ethnic neighborhoods that she lived near not far from Pittsburgh.  It seems they are actually Polish.  Every Christmas she made these cookies in quantity and kept them in her freezer.  They were light and fresh and we couldn't stop eating them.  Now my family wants to see them around every Christmas.

Granny's Apricot-Filled Cookies

1/2 lb. Oleo (I use butter now - room temp.)
8 oz. cream cheese (room temp.)
1 Tblsp. sugar
2 egg yolks
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Confectioner's sugar

1 12 oz. can Apricot Cake and Pastry Filling

Mix cream cheese and butter thoroughly.  Add yolks and blend well.  Add sugar, flour and salt.  Mix gently to form stiff dough.  Form 10 balls, about 3 oz. each.  Chill in refrigerator several hours.  Sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on a dough board to prevent dough sticking.  Roll each ball out on the confectioner's sugar to about an 8-inch square.  Cut each square into 9 small squares.  Place 1/2 tsp. apricot filling in the center of each small square.  Bring opposite corners together to seal.  (You can use an egg wash made of an egg beaten with a little water to brush over one of those corners to help make a seal.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 deg.
Makes 90 cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Poppy Seed Roll Makowiec

I grew up eating poppy seed rolls for Christmas and Easter.  I could never get enough of the filling.  Mama ground her poppy seeds, soaked them in hot milk and ran them through the grinder again after they had softened.  All she added was sugar and egg white.  That was my favorite.  She never iced her rolls--it would have taken away from the poppy seed taste.  I've bought poppy seed rolls when I've found them in bakeries in Pennsylvania, but they're often flavored with lemon and honey.  I can't find them at all in local bakeries here.  It's also impossible to buy poppy seeds in bulk here so I've used canned filling this time and decided to add some cream cheese icing and walnuts to make them look more festive.


4 cups flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tblsp. granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, 115 deg.
14 oz. (approximately) poppy seed filling or make your own

Mix flour, butter and sugar with a pastry blender.  Add egg yolks and mix well. 
Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to dough.  Mix well.  Chill overnight in covered bowl.
Next day, whip room temperature egg whites until stiff.
Roll out half of dough to 13-inch circle.  Spread 1/2 of the filling over the dough.  Spread half the egg white over the filling.  Roll up like a jelly roll.  Place on one side of lightly greased large cookie sheet (or parchment-lined sheet pan).  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Cover with towel and let rise for 1 hour.
Bake at 350 deg. 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool.

Icing (optional)

3-oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tblsp. melted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat everything together, except walnuts.  Spread over cooled loaves.  Sprinkle with walnuts.

Wesolych Swiat!

BBA Challenge Dresden Stollen

Dresden Stollen is a traditional German Christmas bread.  This version, from Peter Reinhart's book is delicious and not too difficult to make.  For my fruits, I used 1 cup golden raisins and 1 cup of a mixture of currants, citron, candied orange peel and a few candied red cherries.  I presoaked the fruit in rum and lemon extract for several days before using it.
I rolled the fruit-filled dough around a roll of almond paste before the final proofing. (I used almond paste, not marzipan.)  When the bread was baked, I brushed it with melted butter and covered it in vanilla sugar (confectioner's sugar which has had vanilla bean stored in it).  I had to cut a piece to try before I put it away for Christmas.  It is moist and luscious.  I love this bread.  The fruit combination and the almond paste in each slice are so good. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Cookies: Biscochitos and Dark Chocolate with Sour Cherries

I tried two new recipes from Martha Stewart's Cookies.  The Dark Chocolate with Sour Cherries was not a recipe I thought I would love.  I don't bake chocolate cookies, although I do appreciate a good chocolate cake and love dark chocolate.    I love these cookies.  The chocolate is dark, rich and chewy with occasional bites of fruity dried cherry that are just the right contrast in the rich chocolate cookie.  I plan to make these every Christmas.  They're going into my Christmas File.  They were not hard to make. 

Then I became intrigued by the Biscochitos, also in Martha's Cookie book.  This is, apparently, the state cookie of New Mexico.  I couldn't imagine the flavor of a cookie that contains vanilla, Grand Marnier, orange zest, anise seeds and cinnamon and lard (in addition to the usual cookie ingredients).  Well, this dough almost went into the trash.  It was sooo soft that I almost couldn't work with it.  I didn't have the traditional shape of cookie cutter so I used my chicken cutter.  The dough kept becoming messed up as I tried to transfer it from the dough board to the cookie sheet.  I finally got enough cookies cut out to bake some of them.  The flavor turned out to be really good.  I was so glad I stuck with these.  I love that combination of flavors.  The texture is softly crisp.  The next time I make these (And I WILL make these again), I'll probably cut them into square or diamond shapes so I don't waste any dough scraps and will be able to transfer them more easily.
 Both of these are now definitely added to our favorites.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Cookies: Zitronenherzen

Zitronenherzen or lemon hearts are Christmas cookies that are made without any flour. Ground almonds are substituted.  I found some almond meal/flour at Whole Foods that I used for these.  It's just finely ground blanched almonds.  Here are the ingredients:

3 egg yolks
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 to 2-1/4 cups finely ground almonds
1/8 tsp lemon extract (I used 1/2 tsp. lemon oil instead)
1/8 tsp. baking powder (I used just a little more)

Beat egg yolks, 2/3 c. sugar and vanilla until thick and lemon-colored.  Stir in 1/2 the almonds, the lemon oil and baking powder.

Transfer dough to sugared doughboard and knead in enough of the remaining almond to form soft dough.  Shape into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1-1/2 hrs.

Take a break, make some hot chocolate, pick up your knitting and listen to Christmas music for a while.
Ok.  Time's up--back to the cookies:

Heat oven to 400 deg.  Line cookie sheets with greased waxed paper (unless you have a Silpat, which is wonderful).  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick on lightly sugared surface. Cut out cookies with 2-inch heart-shaped cutter.  Place on cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. (I took mine out at about 7 min.  They were set without being brown. Don't bake them too long.)

When they are done, remove to racks immediately and cool.  Glaze with the following icing recipe:

1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Beat lemon juice into sugar in small mixer bowl until the consistency of corn syrup.  (I didn't sift my sugar so I had a higher proportion of sugar making it more like icing, which gave a more intensely-lemon flavor to the iced cookies.)

These cookies have a nice chewy texture with an almond flavor that I love and very lemony icing, which I also love.  If you wanted to tone the lemon a bit (I don't), you could make the icing thinner and use less--the way the recipe says.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Magazine Mondays

I love this challenge since I have such a stack of old magazines that I'm finally getting around to.  If it weren't for the Magazine Mondays, I would still not try all these recipes.  Today's recipes come from another issue of  donna hay Issue 35.  This issue is loaded with recipes for making and using your own ricotta, clotted cream, curd and preserved lemons. 

I had tried clotted cream once from a store, expecting a good thick cream to spread on biscuits.  It tasted off--not fresh.  So, I'm making my own.  I put 3 cups of heavy cream in a dish and am leaving it in a 275 oven for 8 hrs.  It should be a thick spread good on the scones I plan to make in the morning.

 Then I made some ricotta cheese.  I've seen various versions of how to make it.  This one was the simplest.  I just heated 6 cups of whole milk to 176 deg., added 2 Tblsp. white vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes to form curds.  Then I spooned it into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain about 20 minutes.  I then picked up the corners of the cheesecloth and twisted them to squeeze out more of the moisture.  This ricotta was really sweet and creamy.  I loved it.

  I used the homemade ricotta for a Ricotta, Pancetta and Pumpkin bake from this magazine.  I had enough ricotta for a 1/2 recipe.  I combined my 3/4 lb. ricotta with 3/4 cups grated parmesan and 3 eggs.  Then I added 4 oz. thawed and drained chopped spinach and 1/4 c. chopped basil along with some salt and pepper.  I peeled and sliced, thinly, an 8 oz. piece of butternut squash (this Australian magazine refers to it as butternut pumpkin) and used 6 slices of pancetta.  The recipe said to grease a baking dish and layer 1/2 of the squash, 3 slices of pancetta, 1/2 of the cheese mixture and then repeat with the rest.  It is baked for 50 minutes at 320 deg.

I don't think I'm a huge fan of pancetta.  As I ate this, I thought it was full of flavor--the sweetness of the squash was nice with the savory cheese and herb custard--but I didn't care for the pancetta in it.  I kept thinking I'd like it better with really thin ham or with no meat at all.  If you like quiches, this might be worth a try.

Expect to see something about Christmas cookies soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

BBA Challenge #6 Challah Bread

This was the easiest bread in the BBA Challenge for me so far.  It went together quickly and didn't require much actual preparation time.  It can be totally completed in one day.  This bread is a little plain in flavor, but good for a simple bread and looks really pretty on the table.  I had a little trouble with the written braiding instructions that said to lay strand 3 over strand 2 and then strand 1 over strand 2???  I check Mr. Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day, and the braiding instructions there cleared up my confusion--strand 3 becomes strand 2 after it crosses over strand 2, so strand 1 is crossed over the new strand 2.  That would have been no problem if I had simply braided the way I know how.  I was just trying to follow the written instruction and found it a little confusing in the way it was worded.  If you simply braid the strips, it's easy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Magazine Mondays - Mushroom & Fontina Quesadillas

What do you do when you have a piece of Fontina cheese and some white and baby bella mushrooms in your fridge? You find your Spring 2008 issue of Fine Cooking magazine and see there's an easy dish to make for Magazine Mondays!  It's Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas.  The directions are simple, the ingredients are in the fridge and there's fresh thyme in the herb garden. This won't take long!

 But wait!  There on page 101 is a recipe for making your own flour tortillas!  And, if there's a harder way to do something, I'll usually go for it.  Yep, I'm finding myself making my own flour tortillas.  Everything's going great during the mixing and resting.
After making some of Peter Reinhart's breads, this is a cinch.

 Until I get to the part where you have to roll out circles or amoebas.  Mine turned out to be amoebas.  I found that this dough was easy to stretch and roll after it had rested the required amount of time, but when I tried to make a circle by rekneading one of my distorted tortillas and rerolling it, it had become elastic again and was hard to roll back out.  I let the rest of them remain amoebas.  The other problem I had was I don't own an iron griddle or large iron pan so I had to fit my tortillas into  a somewhat smaller pan and my edges tended to bunch up some.  It worked well, otherwise, and they were good.

I chopped the mushrooms (I used some of each white and baby bella) and sauteed them in a pan with the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.  This combination was delicious!  The aroma and flavor of mushrooms with thyme is one of my absolute favorites.

I added some of the Fontina on half of each of the tortillas and topped it with mushroom mixture--then folded them over.  They went into a pan, covered for a few minutes to heat up again, then
 I uncovered them and cooked them a little longer on the other side and served them with salad and a cool Ranch dressing.  This dish was really good.  The only change I would make next time is to use a little less salt.  The Fontina is salty so the 1/2 tsp. kosher salt was almost a little too much.  I'm going to try this again very soon, but with bought tortillas to see if I like it as well.  I think these tortillas would be worth making again if they make a noticeable difference, but I wouldn't try to do it in a smaller pan like mine again.  Below is the recipe with my slight changes.

Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas
 1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. coarsely chopped mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tblsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
2 Tblsp. softened unsalted butter (if using bought tortillas)
4 9-10 inch flour tortillas (I used 5 homemade ones)
1/2 lb. Fontina, coarsely grated

Saute mushrooms in oil 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, salt and about 1/4 tsp. pepper.  (Taste and add just a bit more salt, if needed).  If using bought tortillas brush surface very lightly with butter (the homemade ones seemed less dry and probably wouldn't need the butter).  Turn them over and cover half of each with the cheese up to 1 inch of edge.  Add mushroom mixture over the cheese.  Fold each in half to enclose the filling.  Put the quesadillas back into the wiped-out skillet (2 will fit at a time) and cover and heat about 4 minutes.  Uncover and turn over to heat 2 more minutes.  Keep warm in a low oven until all are heated.

If you want to try making the tortillas yourself, here's a link to the recipe at fine cooking. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Magazine Mondays - Creamy Mushroom and Almond Pasta

Magazine Mondays involves digging into your stacks of magazines for recipes you've been planning to try forever (and, when you finally do, you'll keep the good recipes and get rid of the magazines).  You make the recipe and share with readers. This was the idea of creampuffs in venice Check it out.  I've decided to join this effort with something I found in an old issue of donna hay magazine, Issue 38.  I've changed the proportions and instructions a little. 

Creamy Mushroom and Almond Pasta

8 oz. wide egg noodles
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
30 fresh medium sage leaves
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup light cream
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
About 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions (about 8 minutes).
Saute mushrooms in olive oil until lightly browned.  Add the sage leaves, almonds and garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Add sherry, stock, cream, salt and pepper.  Cook 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened.

Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan.  Mix together, cover with shredded Parmesan and serve. 

This dish was sooo creamy and flavorful that even my hamburger-loving husband really liked it.  I think next time I might add even a bit more sage--my leaves were a little small--and it wouldn't hurt to add a little more mushroom.  This is now one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BBA Challenge Bread #5 Casatiello

I made this bread from Peter Reinhart's book using his recommended ingredients of pepperoni and provolone cheese.  I bought sharp provolone for the extra flavor.  I also used buttermilk because Reinhart mentioned that was his preference for the extra tang it gives.  I cut the pepperoni in small cubes and shredded the cheese using the larger holes on my grater.  The pile of pepperoni looked like too much for the fairly small amount of dough I had.  I almost decided to cut the amount in half, but I decided to trust the recipe.  The dough was a pleasure to work with--I had no problems with it.  I wanted to use an 8-inch cake pan, which the recipe gave as one of the choices.  The way I read it, it sounded like I would use only one pan.  When I put the dough in, it looked like it filled the pan even before I proofed it a final time. 

I considered making it in 2 small loaf pans, but I left it in the cake pan.  It puffed up like a mushroom cloud!

We laughed and laughed at it and worried just a little that it might overflow the little pan.  It didn't.  It came out perfectly!

The outside was brown and chewy and the inside was so soft--it pulled apart in rich, tender strands with the tang of buttermilk and cheese and the bites of flavor from pepperoni.  Next time I would add about 1/2 again the amount of pepperoni.  It seemed to have migrated to the crust and was sparse inside the bread.

Notice the big holes where cheese melted.  I love this bread and will definitely make it again with meat and cheese and, another time, with fruits and nuts.  I'm wondering if it would make a good chocolate bread with dried sour cherries. 

Monday, November 9, 2009


These were the main cookies Mama made at home.  She didn't use a recipe.  All I remember is that she used flour, butter, egg, sugar, and, probably, some vanilla.  She made her own currant jelly and always used that as the filling.  After looking at numerous recipes that just don't match what she used, I've put together what I think is closest.  This could be made with other jellies and could be sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, but I wanted the taste of home.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup currant jelly or other jelly or jam

In mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light.  Beat in egg, vanilla and salt.  Gradually add flour.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill about an hour in the refrigerator.  Roll out 1/2 at a time to about 1/8 inch thick.

Use about a 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds.  Use a very small cutter and cut the center out of half of the cookies. (I have a doughnut cutter that has a removable center that I use.) The scraps can be rerolled and cut out.  Place the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 deg. for 6 to 8 minutes until they just begin to brown lightly at the edges.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the sheets and remove to racks.  Use about 1/2 tsp. warmed jelly or jam on each solid round and place a cookie with the hole on top to make little cookie sandwiches.  Let the cookies cool until the jelly sets.

How about that new apron the cookies are sitting on??  I picked that up at IKEA this weekend.

Eggs in Purgatory

Sometimes I get a tiny bit of inspiration.  This morning there were two.  I thought of a perfect little breakfast for what I'm attempting to get back to--healthy, delicious eating--emphasis on both!  (I teach and, sometimes, that consumes so many hours and so much mind, that I fall behind on everything else.)  This morning I remembered Eggs in Purgatory.  I had attended Tyler Florence's Wine and Food Pairing in DC this weekend .  At each of our place settings was a gift of La Famiglia DelGrosso Fireworks Sauce.

 I was preparing to make some Christmas cookies and realized I have to let butter  get to room temp first.  Ok--time for breakfast while I wait.  I hit upon using some of this sauce to make Eggs in Purgatory.  I simply simmered a little sauce, slipped in an egg, added s & p, chopped some fresh parsley on top, added a slice of whole wheat toast and a cup of very hot tea and, Voila--the perfect breakfast!  There was the egg for protein, the lycopenes in the tomatoes, the vitamins in the parsley, the whole grains in the bread and the zing from the "fireworks" in the sauce!  It was soo good and healthy and not bad in calories.  The sauce allowed me to cook the egg without any fat.

 Then came the next inspiration.  When we were in our favorite vacation spot, Ocracoke Island, NC, I bought a little pottery bowl.  It turns out it's a perfect break-an-egg-into-before-slipping-it-into-something-else bowl.  It has a little handle on the one side and a little pouring spout.  Even better, my garbage can is just to the right of the counter, so I can break my egg into the bowl and drop the shell right into the trash without moving from the spot.  Then I slip the egg into a pan on the stove which is also right there on the left  or into a mixer bowl, etc.  In this picture there is another bowl I bought in Ocracoke, that holds a little flour for when I just need a little in my cooking.  The little Polish spoon was a gift.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BBA Challenge Bread #4 Brioche

Should we make the Rich Man's Brioche??  The Middle-Class Brioche?? Tiny molds?  Larger molds--which we didn't have?  Or should we just use loaf pans, which we both had?  There were some decisions to make with this BBA Challenge.  We decided that Karen would make the Rich Man's Brioche and I would make the Middle-Class and we would compare the two.  I already had one pan that I thought would work for a larger brioche and we ordered more pans.  Mine were 7-inch and hers were 8-inch.  Both sizes seemed to work just fine.  This recipe kept me on  my toes as I kept switching between the quantities for the middle-class version and the general directions on the previous page.  I almost panicked when I noticed I had forgotten the little note on bottom of page 127, "proceed as for Rich Man's Brioche, extending the fermentation for the sponge to 30 to 45 minutes."  I also missed the little note about allowing the dough to rest 5 minutes before adding the butter.  It still all worked out just fine.  The bread rose (Peter Reinhart would be happy) and the outcome was delicious.    Karen's bread seemed impossibly buttery to her when she was working with it but it did what it should do.  She said it made really delicious french toast. 
Today we compared them.  They were quite different from each other.  The Rich Man's Brioche was very rich and buttery and had the most interesting texture.  The Middle-Class Brioche seemed perfect for just bread or little individual rolls.  Karen brought in some fig jam and I had some of my applebutter--both were so good on our brioche.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WV Apples, Apple Butter and Apple Dumplings

Fall is apple time in our area of WV.  We go to a local Orr's farmer's market and select from huge bins of freshly-picked apples of all kinds.  I asked the lady inside for pie recommendations.  She said she likes a mixture of Golden Delicious, Mountaineer and Stayman.  They were just out of Stayman, so I substituted Romes.  I love Orr's.  They grow peaches, cherries, berries, farm produce, flowers and--in the fall--all kinds of gourds and pumpkins.  It's a pretty place in autumn.  I bought some apples, some cider and mulled cider spices.  I love hot spiced cider on a cool fall evening. 

While riding to town the evening before Halloween, we passed another little farm stand along the road.  This is also one of our favorite stops for tomatoes and other veggies.  This particular evening it was growing dark and we saw a big fire with a pot over it and people standing around, stirring.  "Is it applebutter??" I wondered.  "Are they making applebutter?"  My husband thought it might be a Halloween event.  We passed by again the next day on our way back from helping our son move and we stopped.  Sure enough, they were selling freshly-made applebutter.  I immediately picked up a couple pints.  The lady gave me a taste.  I switched one of the pints for a quart and now plan to go back and buy more.  The applebutter tasted so fresh and spicy without the cloying syrupiness of some I've had.  It was sooo good on toast with a couple slices of my husband's good bacon and a fresh cup of coffee this morning. 

And I finally made some apple dumplings again.  I used a recipe from an old Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook.  The dough was pie pastry.  The apples inside were peeled and cored.  According to the recipe, I made a paste of butter, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar and spread it over the outside of each apple before wrapping it with a 6-inch square of pie dough.  The dumplings were baked for 30 minutes at 375 deg. Then I made a simple syrup of 1-1/4 cup sugar and the same amount of water with 3 Tblsp. of pineapple juice, brought to a boil.  I poured that over and around the dumplings and baked for 20 more minutes until they were browned.  The recipe says to baste the dumplings a couple times while baking.  I thought they were very good, hot with vanilla ice cream, except the syrup made them a little sweet for my taste.  Next time I would add less of it.  I wouldn't use real sweet apples for this.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I was making apple dumplings today and wearing an apron I made.  I've seen some pretty darn cute aprons out there in shops lately.   In my mother's kitchen, aprons were just taken for granted.  They weren't cute--they were utilitarian.  Before we started cooking, the aprons went on.  They were old, faded, thin in places, but really soft and so useful. My mother would start cleaning some chicken and send me to the garden for whatever veggies were ready, for some dill or parsley and, perhaps some cucumbers.  I ran out and just gathered up my apron and started filling it.  Back inside, I'd sit down with some peas to shell.  My apron would be a protective towel over my lap while I shelled peas into a bowl on my lap.  When I was finished, I shook out the debris off my apron into the compost container.  After I rinsed the peas, I might just quick-dry my hands on it. An apron served as an always-handy little towel.   We used the pockets to carry all kinds of things around the kitchen or outside--some clothespins to hang out laundry--a couple things on the table that should be put away upstairs, etc.  I still take aprons seriously.  I like a full-size apron that fits smoothly and has a bib for serious baking because it holds my clothes out of the way when I'm rolling out dough and working around the oven.  For cooking I like a gathered half-apron with pockets for all the handy uses I mentioned above.  The design of the one here is a particular favorite of mine for all-around use.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BBA Challenge Goes To School

Add bleu cheese to the picture and what do they have in common?  All three belong to the Kingdom Fungi.  In my science classroom we are about to dissect mushrooms, make spore prints and explore the fascinating world of yeast.  I'm going to share with my students what I've learned from the BBA Challenge--that wild yeasts are all around us and we can use them to make some delicious bread. We're going to capture some using Reinhart's recipe in his newly released book, artisan breads every day.  We'll mix some bread flour and pineapple juice and stir and watch until it is active and bubbly. I'll bring it home and bake sourdough bread for the students to sample.  I just received my copy of this bread book and am anxious for Friday night to curl up with my tea and my new book to select the bread for my class.
This weekend is time for our next bread, also, for our challenge.  Karen is planning to make the Rich Man's Brioche and I'm making the Middle-Class Brioche so we can compare the two.  I'll let you know Monday what our vote is.  Reinhart offers to send his readers an autographed bookplate to place in his new book if you send him an sase--check his blog.  Mine came today!  Just in time for my new book!