Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bread Recipe Links for 2011

With only a few more days to go until it is 2012, I thought it might be nice to have the links for bread recipes all together in one place, so I just created a linked list at the Bread Baker's Dog recipe site.

Here is the URL: or click HERE

The recipes are broken down into categories that make sense to me (& I hope they do to you, too):
Bread with Wild Yeast which are bread recipes using sourdough starter

Bread with Yeast which are the non-sweet yeasted bread recipes

Flatbread - so far only a savory tart recipe

Made with Bread for things like French Toast and Bread Pudding that make use of already baked breads

Quickbread which is the non-sweet quick breads section

Rolls made with Yeast because I think that rolls should have their own category

Sourdough Specials for things like Pancakes and Waffles made with sourdough starter

Sweet Quick Breads for the sweet breads that are quick due to baking soda and/or baking powder instead of yeast

Sweet Yeasted Breads which are, of course, sweet breads made with yeast

I'll add other categories if I come across a recipe that doesn't seem to fit in these. I'm hoping to have some time soon to link the breads from years prior to 2011. In time there may even be separate pages for some of the other recipes I have a lot of in my index, like cookies or cake. When I do I'll post the link(s) here.

Hope you have a safe and happy New Year's Eve dear readers. Sweetie and I plan on a nice quiet one at home, just the two of us. I do have noisemakers to blow on when the New Year arrives to welcome it with silly sounds. I hope for myself that 2012 has more silly times and fewer stressful ones than 2011. No other resolutions at the moment.

Baby It's Cold Outside


Although we haven't had snow or sleet we sure have had frost and chilly nights. We're not talking about below zero or even single digit temperatures, so I'm not complaining, but I can tell you that when we came home last night from a long drive to visit Natasha and her family we were chilled by the time we settled in front of the fire (or, in the case of our daughter, chatting on the phone to her sweetie).

Time for a warming drink. Time for Hot Buttered Rum! This recipe is one I've had for over 40 years but have not made for a long time. I'd actually forgotten about it until we were talking about hot drinks the other day and K mentioned that she had enjoyed a hot buttered rum drink while out with friends. I didn't write down the name of the person who gave me the recipe, but I think it was a college friend. I've no idea where she got the recipe from, but it is a keeper.

One of the lovely things about this is that you make up the butter/sugar/spice mixture ahead of time. It really does go together quickly, especially if you already have some water boiling for tea or coffee or some other purpose. Making the butter mixture takes a little longer, but not much.

If I were a true mixologist I'd try to figure out some garnish to make it more interesting to look at. Maybe next time I'll add a cinnamon stick. There is bound to be a next time. The butter mixture keeps at least three months. (I suspect it might keep even longer if stored at the back of the fridge...I have vague memories of using the mixture one time after it sat for about 8 months back there. Maybe that's when I stopped making it!)

Two Minute Hot Buttered Rum
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 lb dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream the butter until it's fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the spices over the mixture and mix another minute to thoroughly combine.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

To make each serving: In a heatproof glass or mug place 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Add 1 and a 1/2 oz. rum and boiling water to fill the glass or mug. Stir and serve.

See how easy that is?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Vegan Cake for Christmas

I'm not a vegan, although I probably should be. If you know how to combine your foods to make a complete protein it's a very healthy way to eat. The good news is that there are absolutley delicious recipes I make that happen to be vegan, too.

Wishing each of you, dear readers, a happy holiday season and joy and prosperity in the New Year.

Counting my blessings this year takes some time because I've been very blessed. Loving friends and family are some of the biggest blessings one can have.

The day after Christmas we'll have a gathering of friends and family, with food and drink and conversation. One of the things being served will be this vegan spice cake, a variation on a Spanish Bar Cake I used to enjoy when I was a girl. It's based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking but there are so many recipes in that cookbook that you may not have run across this one. Even though there will also be handmade cookies and Costco mousse cake as desserts, this one may be finished up first, it is so good. And yes Lynn, I did make some changes. But of course.

The texture is light for a fruit cake and the flavors are deep, dark and spicy due to the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and lots of raisins. Let it cool before slicing it. Sweetie couldn't wait and so it crumbled on him a bit.

Do try this at home. It contains no eggs, butter, or milk but you do need a non-dairy butter substitute or butter flavored shortening. It's not diet food, but is also less rich than a lot of the desserts that will be served this holiday season.

Vegan Spice Cake with Citron, Candied Orange Peel and Dates
Based on Eggless Milkless Spice Cake in the Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups water
3 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) non-dairy margarine or butter-flavored shortening, melted
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped candied citron
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease well and flour a 9 - 10 cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan stir together the water, raisins, brown sugar, margarine/shortening, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir gradually into the boiled ingredients until the batter is smooth (I transferred the boiled ingredients into a stand mixer bowl and used the mixer to mix in the dry ingredients.

Stir in the almonds, dates, citron and orange peel to distribute evenly in the batter.

Transfer the batter, which will be somewhat thick, into the prepared pan and even the top. Tap the pan a few times on the worktop to settle the batter. Bake in the preheated oven for an hour. Check to see if it is done by pushing a toothpick into the middle of the baked batter. If it comes out clean or with a few crumbs sticking to the toothpick it's done.

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Turn out onto a serving plate and cool completely before serving. Can be decorated with a drizzle of melted white chocolate or with a drift of confectioner's sugar put through a fine screened strainer.

Serves about 16

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas Tale of Bread Baking

Time has passed in the Land of St. Honore', as it does everywhere. Hearing the Angelus church bells ring out in the early morn over the snowy winter land, twelve year old Elias knew it was time to start the surprise for Grandfather. He had plans to spread good will through his baking. Christmas was coming and it was time his Grandfather knew that he had, indeed, inherited the family talent for baking.

Thirteen years ago his mother, the princess, had chosen his father, Ian, as a husband because his baking made her happy.

Elias's grandfather the king also enjoyed a fine baked good and had been hoping that the baking gene, so prized in the Land of St. Honore', had been passed on to Elias because his mother was a better baked good eater than baker.

Although Elias enjoyed the comportment and manners training that was part of his education and really appreciated access to spirited horses since he loved to ride, he truly loved spending time in the kitchen with his father learning the ancient secrets of butter and eggs, sugar and flour. Recently his father had been given a gift of quantities of candied orange and lemon peel. He had just the recipe to make good use of them.

The day before he had gathered his ingredients and started the candied peels to soak in their rum bath. Although the recipe looked fine he was going to change a few things. He preferred to mix together all of the dough ingredients (except for the soused fruit) and let it chill overnight for extra flavor. In the morning he could knead in the fruit and shape the loaves.

For Christmas the tradition is to use a richer dough than usual, so to the flour and yeast he added milk, eggs, butter, citrus zest and spices. All of that butter fat meant that the dough wouldn't rise as much, but since Elias planned a shaped set of loaves that was OK. The overnight chilling would still add flavor.

So now he was returning from his early morning visit to church and he was looking forward to the warmth of the kitchen. He retrieved the dough from the cooler, tipped it out on a floured board and punched it down. As the dough warmed he found it easier to spread the dough out on the board and then he spread the rum and fruit mixture over the dough, rolled it all up, then kneaded it to distribute the fruit.

As he kneaded the dough he leaned down and really appreciated the fragrance of the fruit and spices. After dividing the dough into three pieces, he shaped each one into a batard, then used a large dowel to create an indentation, slightly off center. One piece was flipped on top of the other and lo and behold! Stollen. Once the loaves had been proofed for about two hours they were ready for the oven. After baking to a golden brown he brushed them with clarified butter and gave them a generous coating of superfine sugar so they looked snowy.

Don't let anyone tell you that stollen, the lovely fruited yeast loaves of Christmas from Dresden, Germany, is supposed to be hard and dry. These loaves were fragrant with spice, zesty with citrus and rum, tender and moist and sweet. Elias knew that the stollen he had made as a gift for the king would be enjoyed because he enjoyed his own loaf very much!

A big thank you to Susan of Wild Yeast for this delightful take on stollen and congratulations to her on her special day. Hope you enjoyed the story above. It's been a while since I visited the Land of St. Honore', where baking is a birthright.

Please visit the other Bread Baking Babes (links found at right) to enjoy their beautiful stollen posts. I'm including the recipe below so you can see what should have happened. My experience was pretty much the same as Elias'. I also chose not to use confectioners' sugar on the finished loaves. The superfine sugar was enough sweetness.

Do consider baking these for yourself and your gift giving. You can be a Buddy by sending Susan an e-mail with a link to your post and/or a description of your baking experience and a photo of the finished bread(s). You have until Dec. 29th but I encourage you to make these in time for Christmas.
Of course I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting. Merry Christmas Susan!

(Adapted from San Francisco Baking Institute)

Yield: 1500 grams (3 loaves, more or less)

• Candy and dry citrus peel: 12 hours or more (can be done ahead)
• Soak the fruits: 12 hours
• Mix and ferment sponge: 12 hours (can be simultaneous with fruit-soaking)
• Mix dough: 20 – 30 minutes
• First fermentation : 30 minutes
• Pre-shape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
• Proof: 90 minutes
• Bake: 30 minutes

Sponge Ingredients:
• 120 grams flour
• 80 grams water
• 0.1 gram (small pinch) instant yeast [or 0.13 g active dry, or 0.25 g fresh]

Soaked Fruit Ingredients:
• 130 grams raisins
• 75 grams dried cherries (or more raisins)
• 61 grams candied orange peel
• 92 grams candied lemon peel
• 82 grams slivered almonds
• 34 grams rum

Final Dough Ingredients:
• 348 g flour
• 53 g milk
• 25.3 grams (2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) instant yeast [or 18.6 g osmotolerant, or 31.6 g active dry, or 63.3 g fresh]
• 8 g (1-1/3 t.) salt
• 8 g (2-1/3 t.) diastatic malt powder (omit if you don’t have it)
• 51 g sugar
• 50 g egg (about one large egg)
• 5 g grated lemon zest (one average lemon)
• 5 g grated orange zest (one small orange)
• 1/3 t. of each of these ground spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice, nutmeg
• 273 g unsalted butter, at room temperature (should be pliable)
• all of the sponge
• all of the soaked fruits

Finishing Ingredients:
• clarified butter
• fine granulated sugar
• powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

1. Toss the soaker fruits with the rum in a medium bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
2. Meanwhile, combine the sponge ingredients in another medium bowl. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker. Mix in slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
4. Continue mixing in medium speed until the gluten reaches full development. The dough should come together around the hook and should no longer stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl. This could take about 20 minutes or more, but will depend on your mixer.
5. Add the soaked fruits and mix on slow speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
6. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered container. Cover and ferment for 30 minutes at room temperature.
7. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into three pieces, or however many you would like. Pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
8. To shape each loaf: Form a blunt-ended batard and dust it lightly with flour. With a thin rolling pin, press down firmly, separating about 2/5 of the dough from the other 3.5. Roll out the flap of dough connecting the sections so it is about 2 inches wide. Flatten the larger section slightly with your hand, then fold the smaller section over to rest on the larger one.
9. Place the loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets (two per sheet) and slip them into a large plastic bag with a bowl of warm water. Proof for about 90 minutes, replenishing the water when it cools.
10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 on convection setting or 400 on regular bake setting. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
11. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape, and bake for another 20 minutes. If you do not have convection, you may need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning and keep the one on the lower rack from burning on the bottom.
12. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter. Dredge them in fine granulated sugar, brushing or shaking off the excess.
13. To finish, sift powdered sugar over the loaves.
14. Cut when completely cool. You can leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry and the sugar crust up a bit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Quick Raspberry Hazelnut Bar Cookies

A great cookie for bringing to a cookie swap or to work or pot luck isn't always easy to find. This one combines two flavors that go well together; hazelnuts and raspberries. It is also pretty easy considering that you get 3-4 dozen cookies (depending on how small you cut the bars). They do take an hour to bake but the preparation time is relatively short if you don't skin the hazelnuts. I think that King Arthur Flour company may sell hazelnut flour which would work well in these. I did toast and skin the hazelnuts which took some time. Those thin nut skins seemed to fly over the counters even when the nuts were inside of a tea towel. Fortunately I did that part the night before.

The next day a little over three sticks of unsalted softened butter whirled around in the mixer with some sugar, a couple of eggs, a little flour and those hazelnuts. Two thirds of the batter became the cookie base and then two cups of raspberry jam made the inner layer. I added a little more flour to the rest of the dough to make it easier to break up the dough for the topping. A gentle pat across the topping and into the preheated oven they went. Very quickly my house smelled fantastic!

Hazelnuts and raspberries not only taste good together, they smell wonderful together. The bottom crust is firm and just a bit crisp on the bottom and you can really taste the hazelnuts. The raspberry preserves make the top part of the cookie moister and a bit chewy. The topping firms up as it cools, so you'll get a nice bit of crunch with the topping, sweet moistness with the raspberry, then a morsel of hazelnut and crispness.

Took some of these to my class Monday night and they were a hit. I'm sad that the in-person part of the class is finished because the people were really nice and the teacher is wonderfully funny and fun. The final project and final exam are still to come but I'm sort of looking forward to them to see how much I learned about InDesign and page layout.

Some more of the cookies went to the P.E.O. Christmas party today and they were enjoyed by many. What are you waiting for? These will be welcomed wherever you take them...even the short walk to your own TV area or dining room.

Raspberry Hazelnut Bars
from The Best of Fine Cooking Cookies
Yields about 4 dozen bars

13 oz. (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a few tablespoons more (more or less) for the pan
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 lb. (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
7 1/2 oz. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (1 2/3 cups)
2 cups raspberry preserves, seeded or seedless

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and mix just enough to incorporate. Add the hazelnuts and mix until just blended.

Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread with the raspberry preserves and then crumble the remaining dough on top (I added additional flour to make the dough a bit more crumbly and also refrigerated it for 1/2 hour. If you are doing this, don't preheat the oven it once you take the dough out of the fridge.) Pat the dough gently to settle the topping.

Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 1 hour. Put the pan on a rack to cool. Cut the bars into even 1 1/2-inch squares.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Getting Ready for Party Time

One of the hallmarks of December is the onset of Party Time.

Some years there are more parties than others, but these days the guests are often encouraged to join in the fun by bringing something to share. If you are holding a party you might be looking for some good food to welcome your friends with. This classic really does taste better freshly made and most people find a creamy, tangy bowl of guacamole hard to resist, especially if there are some salty tortilla chips or crisp veggies to dip into it.

The good news if you are making it for a party is that it goes together pretty quickly. Do allow an hour or so for the flavors to mingle. Don't plan on making it too far ahead...certainly not the day before...since avocado tends to darken over time, even with the addition of the lime juice to slow down that process.

If you know that the folks who will enjoy the guacamole like things hot and spicy, do add hot sauce or more cayenne pepper. If you aren't sure, be kind and just do a light sprinkle of cayenne over the top of the bowl for color and an hint of hot. Then enjoy the party!

Fresh Guacamole Dip
2 ripe avocados
1 small tomato, chopped in small pieces
1 green onion, chopped in small pieces
juice of 1 lime
1 -2 teaspoons finely minced cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper over the bowl when serving...a little for many, a lot if you know your guests/friends like it hot and spicy

Peel the avocados and remove the pits. Mash the avocados in a medium bowl. I like mine a bit chunky, but you can mash it a lot for a smoother dip.

Stir in the tomato, onion, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, yogurt and mayonnaise.

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Let the dip sit for at least an hour to mingle the flavors. If you need to hold the dip longer than an hour, cover with plastic wrap, with the wrap sitting directly on the contents of the bowl, and refrigerate.

Sprinkle on the cayenne pepper. Serve with tortilla chips or crisp veggies to dip in the guacamole.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled for a large group of people.

Monday, November 28, 2011

To Add Zing to Leftover Turkey

If you cooked more turkey than you could possibly eat on Thanksgiving as I did, (or if you ever have extra turkey after a meal) then you might enjoy making this fresh cranberry sauce to liven up a leftover turkey sandwich or just as a side with sliced turkey.

Unlike most fresh cranberry sauces, it doesn't have any orange flavor or components. It does have fresh apple, dried figs and some port but you could probably sub raisins for the figs and another liquid for the port and still get a great sauce, just different. I've found that fresh cranberries these days seem to be on the large size, so I pulse them a few times in the food processor. If you like the texture of whole cranberries that have popped, or have smaller whole cranberries, or don't own a food processor, you could probably skip that or chop the cranberries up with a large knife.

We had this with our Thanksgiving dinner and it was really good with the turkey, playing up the turkey flavor. Since I adore turkey in many of its renditions, this was a good thing. This looks like jewels when served in a clear or crystal dish, but is pretty in any dish you choose.

If you celebrated American Thanksgiving last week, hope it was a great time.
XO Elle

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Apples, Figs, and Port

Many cranberry sauce recipes include oranges but if, like me, you have a guest who is allergic to oranges, try this cranberry sauce. To give it extra crunch, you could fold in some pomegranate arils.

1 bag fresh cranberries (about 12 oz)
2 tart apples
4 dried figs, cut in small dice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water (or orange juice or pomegranate juice)
1/4 cup port
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Wash the cranberries and pick over them to remove any that are soft. Place in food processor fitted with metal blade.

Cut the apples in half and remove the core and stem and blossom ends. Cut each half into four pieces and put them into the food processor with the cranberries. Pulse a few times to roughly chop the fruit.

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, water (or juice), and port. Stir to combine. Add the chopped fruit and figs and stir again. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Check about half way through. If mixture is too dry, add more water or juice...about 2 - 3 tablespoons. I too soggy, you can simmer uncovered a few minutes to thicken it up.

After the mixture has simmered for 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the port, vanilla (and the pecans, if using). Let the mixture cool a bit, then taste to see if you need to add sugar or water to make it the perfect sauce for you. Serve slightly warm or chilled.
Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whoosh...November Babe Lateness with Potato Cake

That whoosh sound was the days of
November from the last post to this one just whizzing by. Somehow we are now just a week away from the last day of the month, and I'm just getting my Potato Coffee Cake posted. Part of the reason is that I injured my left foot (I know, I's always the right foot or knee, but sometimes I have to change it up a bit, right?) which came just about the time I would have been baking this luscious treat (having jsut gotten back from Seattle a few days before that). Part of the reason is also that I've been immersed in cleaning out my computer room and also have been busy at the computer with class work. Loving being back doing graphic arts, but it is always time consuming.

All excuses aside, this is one delicious cake. Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, a super Babe and lover of breads made with potatoes, based this bread,

Kartoffel Kuchen or Potato Coffee Cake on a recipe in One Potato, Two Potato by Ray Finamore, but in the process of getting it ready for the Babes and Buddies she tweaked it and patted it and played with it and made it much better than the original recipe.

I made two 9-inch cakes and one big ring cake, which meant that the smaller cakes are also not terribly high and that I made double doses of the fantastic struesel so that each cake had a LOT of it. Once you taste it you'll understand why.

I found this very easy dough to work with. I did add the flax seed meal but didn't have any white whole wheat flour, so used regular whole wheat flour, which worked out well. The dough really liked to rise and I didn't have to bake it any longer than the recipe called for with the 9-inch pans. The big ring pan took 30 minutes.

For toppings I used the light raisins for one, putting them on the dough under the streusel, then I sprinkled pulverized dried orange peel on the dough of the second 9-inch pan, then sprinkled on dried cranberries, followed by streusel. Both got the dimple treatment once all of that happened.

The ring pan was filled with lumpy balls of the dough (half the recipe) which had each been rolled in cinnamon-sugar. No fruit was added, just half of the streusel. I expected to see lines of cinnamon-sugar through the dough when I cut into it, but didn't. It was slightly sweeter and the cinnamon fragrance was wonderful!

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy, and why not?, just bake this bread/cake by the 29th, post about it, and send Tanna an e-mail with a photo and a brief description of your experience baking it. She'll be glad to hear from you and will post a round-up shortly after the 29th.

Thanks, Tanna, for a great challenge and a wonderful coffee cake experience! Sweetie is having trouble resisting it...'just another small piece' has been heard often.

Do visit the other Babe's blogs to see their take on this recipe. Since I'm late you may need to go back a few days to see the post for this coffee cake, but you're sure to enjoy it. The links are to the right toward the top of the blog.

I'm also sending this over to Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting round-up. Stephanie of Hefe Und Mehr is the hostess this week while Susan takes a break.

Potato Coffee Cake
Recipe Adapted from: One Potato, Two Potato by Roy Finamore
Yield: 2, 10 inch round cakes; 4 eight inch round cakes
From the books intro: There are a lot of things called potato cake in this book, but this one's a real cake, of the coffee cake school. It's based on an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.


For the Cake:
1 pound russet or all purpose potato, peeled and cubed
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
5 cups AP flour
1.5 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
4 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Streusel
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter, room temp.
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans or almonds
1/3 cup white raisins

1. Cook potatoes until very tender, just falling apart.
Drain and reserve potato water.

2. Idealy: rice the potatoes otherwise mash them.
Combine with butter and 1 3/4 cups warm potato water. Allow butter to melt and water to cool to luke warm.

3. In a standing mixer bowl: mix together the potatoes, potato water & butter, yeast, sugar, eggs and 2 cups of flour.
Beat until smooth. This is VERY liquid at this point.
Cover the sponge with plastic and leave in a warm place until it's bubbling happily.

4. Original recipe allowed 1 hour for this.
I altered this to a 5 hour rest in the fridge.
I'm working on the premise that a coffee cake is a morning thing so I aimed for an overnight rise in the dough with shaping in the AM.

5. Stir in remaining 4.5 cups flour, nutmeg and salt using the dough hook (or strong wooden spoon) for about 5 minutes. Dough should be very smooth. I never got a really smooth dough. I tried using Richard Bertinet's slapping technique for very liquid doughs but didn't really have any success.
I probably added another almost 1 cup of flour here but didn't want to push it anymore than that.

Cover again & leave to rise until doubled.

6. Again, original recipe allowed for 1 hour. I let this rise overnight.

7. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lighty floured surface.
Divide the dough in half. If you work quickly while the dough is chilled you can get a reasonable nicely tucked round. As it warms, it'll get more liquid on you.
Shape into two rounds. I did four rounds and used 2 8 inch and 2 10 inch round cake pans. My four cakes were about 2 inches tall.
Original recipe: Place into two 10-inch round cake pans.

8. Preheat oven to 400° at least 20 minutes.

9. For the Streusel Stir flour, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and add butter.
Mix together creating a soften mixture with dark color and sticky texture.
Work in the nuts.

10. Sprinkle streusel over the cakes.
When cakes are covered, dimple the cakes with your fingers - much like dumpling foccacia.
Dimpling will bury some of the crumbs and leave others on the top.

11. Cover with plastic.
Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, taking about 45 minutes.

12. BAKE Bake cakes at 400° 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool on rack … but not cold … this is too good warm.

Tanna's notes:
This is beautiful toast!
Freeze the second cake if you can get it to the freezer before it's gone.
Notes: my 1 pound of potatoes, cooked then mashed equaled 576 grams of mashed potato
I got lazy here, didn't get out my ricer. Potatoes were perfectly cooked and mashed easily with a fork.

Make as two loaves if you want it tall.
Make into four loaves as I did if you want it lower. My four were something like 2 inches tall.

Double the Streusel if you make this into 4 loaves.
I changed the original recipe from 1 cup AP flour to the oat bran & whole wheat.
I increased the sugar from 3/4 cup to a 1 cup and used brown instead of white … I most always use brown unless it really changes something basic to the outcome; just like the caramel flavor it gives.
Original recipe called for 1 package active dry yeast. I used 2 teaspoons. I don't think it would work to cut it any more. Also, original recipes called for dissolving yeast in 1/4 cup potato water. I put all the potato water into the potatoes with mashing and whisk the yeast into flour mix.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Spinach

My recent trip to Seattle not only included a visit to the University of Washington Arboretum where the photo above was taken (I just LOVE autumn colors so had to post one more!) but also a wonderful dinner at Smash, a small restaurant which focuses on small plates and nice wines. I was particularly taken with an entree which had a bed of spinach topped with luscious tender ravioli filled with ginger enhanced butternut squash. A silky browned butter cream sauce with a hint of Marsala pulled it all together. I decided to see if I could make something similar at home.

The first thing I did was to purchase some fresh pasta ravioli made with butternut squash and sage. The filling had more cheese than the restaurant made ones, but they looked like they would work just fine. Then I made sure I had fresh baby spinach, more butternut squash that I could prepare to go on the side and the ingredients for the sauce. Although the extra squash might seem like too much, ravioli doesn't really have a lot of squash in that filling so additional veggies seemed like a good idea. I used to have Marsala, but couldn't find it and the sauce really needs it. Marsala must not be too popular...the bottle I purchased at the Safeway was dusty on the shoulders.

The real challenge was replicating the sauce because it really does bring all the other flavors together. I started with the ingredients for a basic white sauce: butter, flour, milk & cream, and salt and pepper. In addition I added some ginger because the ravioli I purchased lacked the ginger in the filling that the restaurant used. I also added some Parmesan cheese, a dash of sage and the all-important Marsala. To capture the nuttiness found in the restaurant sauce, I browned the butter gently until it was a medium golden brown and then added the flour/ginger combination. When it came time to add the Marsala I added one teaspoon, tasted, then added a second teaspoon. That was all it needed, but it added just the right hint in both flavor and fragrance to let you know it was there.

The butternut squash on the side wasn't part of the restaurant meal, but Sweetie is used to big plates, not the minimal ones found at trendy restaurants. He really liked the contrast of the delicate ravioli and creamy sauce with the squash which had been pan roasted and was still slightly al dente. It was a slight bit sweeter, too, which was a nice counterpoint to the spinach. Although I could have seasoned the spinach I remembered that the restaurant seemed to use plain spinach, wilted, under the ravioli, trusting no doubt that the seasonings in the sauce and pasta would suffice. I used about 5 cups baby spinach, but would use more if I made this again.

Timing is important when making this dish. Plan on having everyone ready to be at the table once the pasta is done. Parsley can be minced ahead of time. The pasta water needed to be fully boiling and then the pasta only takes 5 minutes to cook, so the sauce should be made ahead a bit and kept warm while the pasta cooks. If the spinach has been rinsed and put into a microwave safe bowl, the wilting takes only a minute or two after starting the pasta. Of all the elements, the pan roasted squash takes the most time but it can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave once the spinach is wilted and the pasta is in to boil. Once the pasta is just cooked, it can be drained and the plate put together quickly. Serve at once while everything is still hot.

I hope you try this one. None of the elements are difficult as long as you can find ready-made butternut squash raviolis. It makes an impressive and delicious plate of pasta and vegetables and somehow seems very luxurious as you eat it. The sauce makes enough for 4 but I only had pasta enough for two, so the recipe is for two. You could increase the ingredients to use the whole squash and buy a couple bags of baby spinach (10 oz each) and double the amount of pasta to serve four and there should be enough sauce.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
with Wilted Baby Spinach, Pan-Roasted Butternut Squash and Browned Butter Sauce

1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups milk or a combination of milk and cream (I used 1 1/2 cups evaporated non-fat milk and 1/2 cup "1/2 and 1/2" light cream)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Marsala
dash ground sage
1 package butternut squash ravioli (about 8 oz. for two)
1 bag (10 oz) baby spinach, well rinsed but not dried
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced

To make the Pan-Roasted Squash:Cut the butternut squash in half. Reserve the other half for another use and peel one half. Cut to reveal any seeds and remove seeds and stringy materials from the inside if there. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch dice. Set aside.

Heat a skillet (cast iron works best for this) over high heat. While skillet is heating, place the squash cubes, olive oil, salt, sage, and grated onion into a gallon zipper bag or large plastic bag. Close and shake vigorously to coat the squash pieces with the other ingredients.

When a drop of water dropped on the skillet sizzles, add the seasoned squash cubes. Use a spatula to flatten the mixture and compact it a bit. Let it sit undisturbed for 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for another 30 seconds.

Turn the squash with a wide spatula to bring the browned side up and get the unbrowned side in touch with the pan. Cook another minutes. Repeat. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine it with the squash mixture. Flatten the squash mixture again and let cook 30 seconds. Turn the mixture a few more times, letting the squash brown a bit before turning. Check for how done the squash is by tasting a piece. It should be softened but still have a little resistance, like al dente pasta. Correct seasonings if needed. Remove from the heat and reheat in the microwave just before serving.

To make the Browned Butter Sauce:In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As the butter melts, swirl the pan to mix the butter solids in with the clarified butter. Continue to cook and swirl until the butter is colored a medium golden brown. Remove from the heat. Combine the flour and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the browned butter. The residual heat will cook the flour enough so there is no need to return the mixture to the heat. Whisk the milk in, all at once, and continue whisking to thoroughly combine the milk mixture and flour mixture. Return to medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan, Marsala, and sage. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as desired. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the sauce to keep it from forming a skin. Set aside until needed for plating the pasta. When that time comes, remove the plastic wrap and gently heat the sauce again, whisking as needed.

Start a large pot half filled with water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt if you like your pasta salted.

To make the spinach:Take the washed spinach and place in a microwave safe bowl.Cover with waxed paper or a plain paper towel. Set aside.

The pasta:Once the water comes to a full boil and you know that you can serve in about7-10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium (so that water is barely boiling) and gently place the ravioli, one by one, into the pot. Start your timer for 5 minutes. About half way through that time you may want to flip the ravioli over but don't if they start to break up or lose filling.

Now, once the pasta is in the boiling water, you can reheat the butternut squash for 2-3 minutes in the microwave. Next wilt the spinach by cooking on high 1-2 minutes in the microwave. Remove the plastic from the sauce and gently reheat. Get your plates ready.

At 5 minutes (or at whatever time is recommended for cooking the pasta by the manufacturer), drain the pasta gently. Place half the spinach on each plate, spoon on a little of the sauce, place half the pasta on each plate (leaving some space on the side for the pan-roasted squash) and spoon a generous amount of sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle some minced parsley on top. Spoon some of the squash on the side and repeat with the other plate. Serve at once.

A dry red wine goes well with this dish. Toast the cook. He or she will deserve it after putting this meal together.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Fun

Just back from a visit to Seattle. We were lucky (or perhaps brought California sunshine with us?) because all the rain that had been called for as I packed never happened. It was great fall weather with a nice chill to it. That's probably why the fall color was fantastic!

One of the places I visited was the U Dub (as it is known around here) Arboretum where there were lots and lots of fully colorful trees of all sorts. Bliss for me since our fall color is more muted.

We also made sure to check in at Trophy Cupcakes so that we could try the current seasonal one...Candied Yam with a Toasted Marshmallow topping. It was sort of like a good carrot cake but with yam flavor. We also shared a Mocha Chocolate one that was amazing. They really know how to do butter cream frosting at Trophy. They are shown in the photo at the top, surrounded by the leaves we collected on the walk near there. We used to collect fall leaves when the kids were young and iron them between sheets of waxed paper, then hang them up in the windows on cords to let the sun shine through.

All of this indulgence had been preceded by two good sized walks, not counting the walk at the Arboretum the day before. One of the things I love about Seattle is that is seems like a really walkable city to me.

I'm going to be making a dish (or my version of it at least) that we tried at a restaurant in Wallingford area called Smash. I'll post it in the next day or two. It involves two of my favorite flavors: butternut squash and spinach.

XO Elle

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Star is Born (uh, Baked)

Now that the air is nippy and the fall color has turned the trees to flame, the urge to start baking for the holidays has hit. Natasha, my dear friend (but not a Bread Baking Babe...that's Natashya) loaned me a wonderful book called Festive Baking - Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German, and Austrian Traditions by Sarah Kelly Iaia.

It really started my creative juices flowing, even though many of the recipes are for things related to Christmas, not the fall. One recipe that called to my crafty side was in the bread section (of course it was). It's called Geflochtener Weihnachtsstern or Braided Christmas Star. The dough called for is a typical rich sweet dough flavored with lemon zest. I decided to go with something more in keeping with autumn and harvest...Anadama bread. I've made it before but this time I used regular corn meal and less molasses and I like it better this way.

The finished bread was soft and mellow with just a hint of molasses. It kept the shape of the star really well, too. It goes well with hearty fall soups or stews and makes wonderful toast.

Once I'm back from Seattle I plan on making French Toast with any bread that is still around. The start shape was barely contained by the half sheet baking sheet, which is a lot of bread, plus I baked the other half of the dough into a nice loaf and it made something line 16 slices for sandwiches (or French Toast since Sweetie loves French Toast.) I used three of the 'arms' of the star today to make s small batch of stuffing to go with the grilled chicken and asparagus we had for dinner. It made excellent stuffing. What a versatile bread!

Hang on to this recipe in case you want to bake a star for the holidays. It really is easy if you know how to braid, yet looks super impressive. You could probably even use thawed frozen bread dough if creating bread dough isn't our thing. Just be sure to glaze it with the egg wash so that it is that gorgeous golden brown.

Anadama Bread and Star
Star shaping from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia
makes two loaves or one loaf and one big star

1/2 cup regular corn meal
2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup molasses
6 tablespoons butter, softened,
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 1 cup of the cold water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in the molasses and the butter.
Add the whole wheat flour and stir until all is combined. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer and cool to tepid. (Or transfer to a mixing bowl large enough to mix the dough by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.)

Add the 1 cup sourdough starter to the mixing bowl with the tepid cornmeal mixture. Mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment ( or a wooden spoon) for several seconds. With dough hook in place on the stand mixer add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (At this point I punched the dough down, recovered it, and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I let the dough warm up and then did the shaping.)

Lightly grease 1- 9 x 4 inch loaf pan. Line a sheet pan with silicon mat or parchment for the star. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape one piece loosely into a loaf and place in the prepared pan pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaf has doubled.

For star, take second half of dough (all the dough remaining) and divide it into six equal pieces (using a scale really helps with getting the pieces about the same size). Set one piece aside. Each of the other five pieces is used to make one of the star 'arms'.

Take one of the pieces and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each of those three pieces into a rope about 8 inches long, with a taper at one end. Join the three ropes at the tapered end and braid the ropes. Repeat with each of the next 4 pieces.

Place the braided pieces on the prepared baking sheet with the tapered end pointing out, to shape a five-point star. The ends at the middle should touch and so pinch them together.

Take the last piece of dough and roll into a long rope, about 20 inches long. Starting at the center of the star, wind the rope around in a spiral over the center of the star. Tuck the end under the spiral.

Cover the star with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise, until doubled in bulk. When almost to that point, preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, brush the star and the loaf with a wash of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Make sure that the wash goes into the crevices of the star. Slash the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. Bake loaves for 35 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Star may take a shorter baking time than the loaf. That's OK.

Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Serve warm if possible.

This bread is mellow and soft, barely sweet from the molasses and makes really good toast.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Goodbye October!

I'ts getting chilly at night around here...and our new stove is taking the chill off in the morning. We won't be making s'mores using that stove, but maybe a Halloween pumpkin will do the trick.

Happy Halloween dear reader!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rum and Raisins Love Bananas

Sometimes there are ingredients hanging around the kitchen that need to be used up and my feeling is along the lines of mending a hem before it unravels more or picking the flowering tops off the basil to keep them growing...a task that is undoubtedly worthy but not particularly inspiring. Turning left over salad into soup falls into this area in my opinion.

Other times the ingredients are the kind you hope for...left over bread that will eventually be turned into stuffing or bread pudding, the end of a chunk of Parmesan that gives a great flavor to some soup, or one of my favorites...ripe bananas. A really ripe banana has golden yellow skin with dark brown spots. If all the skin is brown you may have gone too far, but it will still make some great banana bread.

That's what I did last week...made banana bread. The three medium bananas I used looked a bit like giraffes necks...the blotches of brown were pretty big but the skin was still golden, too. I used a recipe from one of my favorite baking books, Marion Cunningham's The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. This one is almost scone-like in texture and is less sweet than some but it has the benefit of raisins soaked in rum...the perfect complement to bananas.

About the only thing to know about this recipe is that the pan sizes are on the small size so plan accordingly. You can find the dimensions right under the recipe title. It also helps to remember that this kind of quick bread does best with minimal mixing of the batter once the dry ingredients are added.

Do give this bread a try when you find yourself with an overabundance of bananas...and some rum and raisins in the pantry.

Rum-Raisin Banana Bread
Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaves

1 cup raisins
6 tablespoons rum
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 cup ripe banana (about 2 large or 3 medium bananas)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Note: I used 1/2 cup regular raisins and 1/2 cup golden raisins.

Stir the raisins and rum together and let stand for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours, stirring occasionally. You can soak the raisins in the rum the night before and they will be plump and moist.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Stir and toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together the butter, sugar, eggs, milk, mashed banana, walnuts, and the raisins and their rum. Add the mixed dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is thoroughly blended. Over mixing causes the bread to become dry and tough.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. I find it hard to wait until the loaves are completely cool. Slightly warm banana bread is hard to beat.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Celebrating Another Year

Due to various things going on in my life...particularly work issues but also house projects, family feuds, Sweetie's shoulder issues, my knee injury, and on and on...this year has not been stellar in the blogging department, but another year of this blog has indeed passed. The challenge has been find in the time to post, but also finding the focus to remember to photograph food. I do prefer posts with photos of the dishes I'm talking about, don't you? Thanks to you, dear reader, the blog continues to pull me toward the computer so that I can share what I've made with you. Sometimes I wish I had a secret tunnel to your house (a fantasy I first read about on the Bread Baking Babes site) so that I could give you some of this freshly cooked or baked yumminess!

Now that some of last year's issues have been resolved I'm hoping to do a few more posts each month. I'm also dedicated to slowly but surely reducing the clutter and possessions in the house...and painting the walls in rooms that really need it, like my bedroom and the guest bedroom and parts of the living room, too. We'll see how far I get by Christmas!

To start off Feeding My Enthusiasms newest year let's turn to the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook. I've become a big fan of King Arthur's products even though they don't send me any free samples or anything. Their specialty flours are wonderful. I use two of them this time. One flour is the Irish Whole Meal wheat flour which has a great texture with bits of the outer layer of the wheat berry that get lost when flour is processed a lot. The second one is the Ancient Grains flour which includes flours like cool is that? It add some subtle flavors that you don't get with plain flour.

So what are we baking today? A baked treat with nuts and chocolate chips. A seasonal favorite that can be baked year 'round because it uses canned pumpkin. I know that it is almost impossible to find canned pumpkin in some areas outside of the U.S., but you should be able to use cooked butternut squash...just be sure to run it through a food mill or process it in a food processor to make the cooked squash nice and smooth. If it's very watery, you may want to drain it in some cheesecloth. Canned pumpkin is pretty solid with minimal water.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread...doesn't that sound wonderful? This recipe is so easy and it make TWO large loaves. I froze the second one for future tea parties or when I need something sweet and baked but don't have time to bake (or I have too much paint on my hands...and face...but still want something to go with a cup of pick-me-up tea. I recommend using the butter/margarine combination. The sugar creams so much better with it and the texture of the loaf is a bit lighter, too.

Not a loaf bread kinda person? This batter would also make quite a few delicious muffins...just be sure to bake for a much shorter time.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
from the King Arthur Baker's Companion Cookbook
Makes two loaves

2/3 cup shortening or 1 cup vegetable oil (I used one stick of butter and one stick of margarine, both partially melted in the microwave when I found that my vegetable oil had gone rancid. I rarely have shortening in the house)
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups (or one 15-oz can) pumpkin - NOT pumpkin pie filling
2/3 cup water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 2 1/2 cups unbleached, 1/2 cup whole meal wheat (Irish whole meal flour from King Arthur, and 1/2 cup ancient grains flour mix from King Arthur.)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, or oil or butter or margarine and the sugar. Beat in the eggs, pumpkin, and water. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla, stirring to blend, then mix in the nuts and chips.

Spoon the batter into two lightly greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Bake the bread for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of one loaf come out clean. Remove bread from the oven. Cool it on a rack. Turn out of the pans and wrap completely cooled loaves well in plastic wrap and store it overnight before serving. (I ate some the same day and a slice the next day...didn't seem to be any different, so I vote for eating some while still slightly warm for that melted chocolate chip delight sensation.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Leaf Bread for Fall

The bodacious Bread Baking Babes are celebrating autumn this month by baking Fougasse, a delightful leaf-shaped bread, at the invitation of Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen, our Kitchen of the month.

Our regular posting day, the 16th of the month, coincides this month with World Bread Day, the annual event that encourages us to bake bread. We are asked also to honor the fact that we have enough food, a situation that isn't true for too many people in the world.

So today we celebrate both World Bread Day and baking with the Babes by baking fougasse, a shaped flatbread.

Fougasse is perfect for fall since it is traditionally shaped like a leaf, with the dough cut and stretched in such a way that, once baked, there is a lot of crustiness. That's a lovely thing in a flatbread like this, especially if you are serving it as an appetizer as I did, or with a nice cooler weather soup or stew.

Elizabeth gave us a couple of choices for the bread dough but indicated that we could also use our own recipe. I'd posted a foccacia recipe during the winter of 2008 and it used sourdough starter, so that's what I used. It made enough dough for me to make two loaves each of two variations. I was inspired by a fougasse that fellow Babe Susan of Wild Yeast had made which used gorgonzola cheese and figs to add flavor and texture to a fougasse which included rye flour.

I only used unbleached bread flour... no rye or other fancy flours this time... and paired the gorgonzola cheese with chopped walnuts. The result was awesome! There was no need for any additional butter or oil, although we did find that some slices of Golden Delicious apple went really well with that version of fougasse.

As Elizabeth days, "Because fougasse is baked on a stone instead of on an oiled pan, there are more crispy bits. Not too crispy though... it's juuuuust right! Of course, it can be cut with a knife but we think that fougasse tastes better torn apart."

The other half of the dough was flavored with freshly chopped herbs...Italian parsley, basil, and rosemary. I'm grateful to have not only enough for myself and Sweetie, but enough to share. I gave one of the herbed loaves to our renter because she loves bread and is on a fixed income so it helps her stretch her food budget a bit, too. Seems appropriate as we honor World Bread Day.

Try baking this easy and delicious Fougasse'll be glad you did. There is only one rising, only a few ingredients, and trying out the shaping is fun and gives you another skill in the kitchen. You can choose your own additions or bake it plain and slather on the butter or dip the torn pieces of fougasse bread in a mixture of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar for an Italian touch. If you do bake it this month (by October 29th) be sure and send an e-mail with a link to your post (or a description of the bread and if you liked making it added to the e-mail if you don't blog) and a photo of the finished bread to Elizabeth to become a Bread Baking Buddy. She'll send you a badge and include you in the roundup.

Elizabeth was daring and baked her fougasse on a grill. I baked mine in the oven. Since I was using a baking stone (actually a pizza stone)

I shaped each leaf on a piece of baking parchment which I had laid on a wooden tray. Each was covered with oiled plastic wrap to rise. No corn meal was used on the parchment paper since I slid the bread and parchment paper on to the baking stone, then removed the loaf directly to the stone half way through baking (throwing the used parchment away).

Each loaf was shaped to fit the stone and they were baked one at a time. One day I'll have to spring for a larger stone so that I can bake two at a time. I also added moisture at the start of baking to help with crust development. I put ice cubes into a pie plate below the baking stone, plus sprayed the walls of the oven with water when I put the loaves in. The latter part of the baking time was done without the steam.

Now that you've heard how I did it, do visit the blogs of the other Bread Baking Babes (see links to the right). I'm also sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event. This week is sure to be a good one with entries from lots of World Bread Day posts, so check it out.

Sourdough Focaccia (with instructions for making Gorgonzola-Walnut Fougasse and Fresh Herb Fougasse)

2 cups 100% hydration sourdough starter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup water, divided
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
additions like cheese, nuts, herbs, citrus peels, olives, etc.

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the sourdough starter. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix briefly with the paddle attachment just until the oil is mixed in.

Make sure the water is lukewarm. Take 1/4 cup of it and add the dry yeast. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the yeast, the rest of the warm water, and about half the flour. Mix with the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook. On slow speed add the flour, a half cup or so at a time, adding only a few tablespoons at a time toward the end. The dough will be soft. Add the salt and then knead with the dough hook on low to medium low speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is smooth. Turn out on a lightly floured board or counter and knead in most of the rosemary, leaving about a teaspoon for the top.

Form the dough into a ball. Oil a large bowl (not metal) and turn the dough ball in the oil to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. It took mine four hours, but even my 'warm' place wasn't as warm as it should have been.

Punch dough down, turn out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few time to get rid of the extra trapped gas.

At this point check out the directions below to make fougasse. To make focaccia, follow this link.

These were the instructions we were given. Notes on my variations are in italics below:

1. Mix, knead and allow your favourite bread dough to rise to double (I used the focaccia recipe above). If you are adding anything like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, caramelized garlic cloves and/or walnuts, mix them into the dough near the end of kneading it or on the first turn of the dough (I added mine once the dough had risen and was ready to shape...just kneading the cheese and nuts into half the dough, then cutting that dough ball in half and shaping each into a leaf shape...then doing the same for the other half of the dough by adding the herbs for the second two loaves which were each shaped into a leaf shape:

for the nut/cheese versions:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

for the herbed:
1 tablespoon EACH chopped Italian parsley, basil and rosemary).

2. If you are wanting herbs/spices on top, please add them just before baking.

3. Shaping: About an hour before baking the fougasse, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and press it out into an oval (or a rectangle; or a circle). Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1 cm (1/2 in.) thick. (I shaped it into a tall triangle.)

4. Sprinkle corn meal (to act as ball-bearings) on the peel - or an upside-down cookie sheet. Lay the shaped dough on the peel. Using a pizza wheel and "swift, decisive strokes" cut a design of a leaf or ladder into the dough. Take care not to cut through the outer edges. From the edges, pull the dough outwards to make sure the cuts are spaced. (I used parchment paper instead, but the dough with a stiff plastic scraper, then gently spread out the dough to open up the cuts to create the leaf shapes...sort of triangular)

Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a plastic grocery bag and allow to rise. (Robertson allows the shaped bread to rise first and does the slashes at the last minute. Naturally, because of my stellar reading skills, I didn't notice that until I had already made fougasse several times by slashing it directly after shaping it.) (I did notice that I had to open up {gently} some of the gaps that had closed up during the rising time. Since my loaves were on parchment and covered with oiled plastic wrap, it was easy to uncover them and gently move the dough to open up the shape again.)

5. Just Before Baking: Drizzle with olive oil and scatter coarsely ground sea salt over top. (You can also do this step just after the bread is baked; that is what Robertson suggests. Or you can forget to add the olive oil at all, as I did the last time.) (I skipped the olive oil and salt part since the additions were flavorful enough.)

6. Baking in the Oven: Put a pizza stone on the middle or top shelf of the oven and turn it to 400F (200C) (I used 450 degrees and added steam with ice cubes and water spray for extra crunch in the crust). Transfer the fougasse onto the hot stone and bake for about 15 minutes, turning it around at least once to account for uneven oven heat. (You may need 20 minutes or more of baking time if you want a darker crust.)

7. When the fougasse done, remove it from the heat and allow to cool on a well-ventilated rack. To serve, break it apart and dip it into good quality olive oil with herbs if you want.

Thank you Elizabeth for a wonderful, delicious, will-make-this-again challenge. My only other attempt at making fougasse was a dud so it was a lot of fun to do it again and discover that it is a great bread. The ultimate test is how quickly it is gone. All four loaves were finished in less than two days (with Straight Shooter having almost a whole one for breakfast yesterday!) so it truly was a success.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Still Harvesting

There are still tomatoes ripening on the window sill as the rain comes down outside. I know that there will be green tomatoes with thin skins that will crack or split from the rain, so once it stops I'll try to bring them in and see if I can use them for chutney or, if they are almost ripe, see if I can encourage them to ripen before they spoil.

Fortunately there are lots of ripe ones ready to use so yesterday I made a lentil soup that gets it's bright flavors from fresh garlic, tomato, lemon juice and Italian parsley which are added at the end. I found the recipe on Natashya's wonderful blog, Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. She has a number of lentil soup recipes but this one matched up with ingredients I had on hand and sounded like a perfect use for some of the fresh tomatoes.

I made the cooked part of the soup yesterday so that it could sit overnight in the fridge, letting all the savory flavors of onion, carrot and celery mingle over time. After reheating today I was able to add the garlic, tomato, lemon juice and parsley and serve it up for lunch pretty quickly. It was perfect for a chilly rainy day and pretty filling, too.

To go with the soup I made some bruchetta (using MORE tomatoes). Using some oatmeal bread I made a few days ago, I made thin slices, brushed them with olive oil on one side, and toasted them in a hot cast iron skillet, turning the slices to grill them on the second side. Once they were toasty, I turned them all with the olive oil side up and rubbed that side of each with a raw garlic clove. Don't skip this really makes a difference in the final bruchetta's taste. While the toasts were cooking I finished up the bruchetta topping. Earlier I had finely chopped a ripe Brandywine tomato. It had very few seeds, so I left on the skin and kept the seeds. If my chosen tomato has a lot of juice, seeds, or a thick skin, I would probably remove them and just finely chop the tomato flesh. For finishing up, I added finely minced garlic, chopped basil and a splash of olive oil and smaller splash of aged balsamic vinegar. These were mixed together with the chopped tomato. To serve, this mixture is piled on the bruchetta toasts.

They should be served right away while the toasts are still crisp and crunchy. The contrast of textures and flavors is delicious! This only really works with ripe tomatoes, so when you have some do give this a try. The standard recipes call for baguette sliced on the diagonal to give the largest real estate for holding the topping. If you have some other kind of sturdy country bread, by all means use it.

For those readers who are interested, we are to the point of painting the new walls in the new stove area in the living room. (This stove will help heat the downstairs part of the house. The upstairs stays chilly but I like to sleep in chilly rooms.) We have also chosen the new lights for the stove area to replace the old can lights. The walls have also been cleaned and the blue tape to keep the paint off of the wood at the ceiling and the wood trip around the door out to the deck has been applied. The freshly painted wall is going to be two-toned with the outer wall in Swiss coffee and the inner wall in Antique White which has a golden glow but is very pale. We also discovered that a local hardware store that had gone downhill has new ownership and now is a great resource. I need new door and drawer handles for the new storage and they have some great ones that I haven't seen elsewhere. Good times.

Here is that great Lentil Soup...pretty easy and very delicious:

Lemon Parsley Lentil Soup
- serves 4-6

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 tsp salt
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or a mix of the two.
1 cup lentils
1 diced tomato
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup chopped parsley
Black pepper

Rinse and pick over lentils.
In a small soup pot, heat vegetable oil on medium/high.
Add onions. Sauté until soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add celery, carrots and 1 tsp salt. Sauté 5 minutes more.
Add stock and bring to a boil.
Add lentils and bring back to a boil.
Drop heat to gentle simmer and simmer until soft, about ½ hour.
Add tomato and garlic, heat through. Add lemon juice and parsley, heat through.
Season to taste and serve.

Bruchetta with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil
- serves 2

1/2 baguette, sliced in elongated thin rounds (or your own country loaf cut into thin slices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced in half
1 medium to large ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Lightly brush the slices of bread with the olive oil. Grill on a barbecue or on a cast iron grill or skillet, first on the olive oiled side, then on the other side. Rub the toasted olive oiled side with the garlic clove. Set aside. (I kept mine warm in a low oven until time to serve them.)

In a small bowl combine the chopped tomato, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped basil. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, arrange the toasts, olive oil side up, on a plate or bread board. Scoop some of the topping on each. Serve at once while bread is crisp and warm.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


When we first moved to our part of northern California, we tried out being exhibitors at the local county fair. Both kids won some ribbons for craft entries and I eventually won at the fall Harvest Fair for an over the top Victorian gingerbread house. Although the kids loved the summer fair with its fun carnival rides and contests and lots of animals and fair food, Sweetie and I have always been fond to the Harvest Fair which has more of a focus on local products and local wines. There are still lots of crafts and cute animals and fair food but the crowds are smaller and the pace is more relaxed.

This year I was lucky enough to do something I've wanted to do for a long the Harvest Fair. Although the long days and challenging cash register set-up were tiring, I had a great time. The people I worked with were old hands at doing the wine sales (yes, that's where I ended up...ringing up wine sales! Isn't that a hoot?) and they were generous with their knowledge and welcoming as co-workers. I felt very fortunate to have such a positive work experience and to meet them. When there were slow times we were able to chat a bit. Each one was a stellar human being and interesting, too. I hope I see them again....maybe next year I'll work the fair again.

Speaking of harvest, we have been harvesting lots of tomatoes. Due to the cool and rainy spring and early summer everything is late, but there is something very special about being inside on a cool, rainy October evening and eating ripe heirloom tomatoes

that were only picked a day or two before. That wonderful fresh tomato fragrance is still strong, the slices are juicy and succulent, especially with a sprinkle of good olive oil, another sprinkle of aged balsamic vinegar, and a dash of garlic salt and fresh pepper.

It's hard to beat and makes the waiting worthwhile.

Some of the plum type tomatoes were cooked and the skins and seeds removed to make a fresh tomato sauce. Although I neglected to take a photo (thought I had, but the memory is not as reliable as it once was), I can assure you that the baked pasta dish I made using that sauce was excellent. I'll share the recipe at the end of the post.

The other harvest that is going on right now is of seeds. I have let some of the French thin green beans go to seed and the seed pod to dry out.

Before the rains came this week I was able to bring in the dry pods and remove the beans...I felt a little like Jack in the fairy tale

...those few beans will sit in the freezer until about March, then I'll plant them for the spring and summer harvest of fresh, delicious tender green beans. This kind of bean produces all at once (over about a week and a half), so I do succession plantings to keep the beans coming so having a lot of beans (seeds) is a good thing.

I also harvested some sweet pea and morning glory seeds to plant early next spring. I've tried planting them now but the snails usually munch them right up during the winter. Come spring I have no seed and no seedlings. If I can figure out how, I'll also collect tomato seeds and dry them, then freeze them for next years' seedlings.

Sorry about the lack of photos, but I'm sure you've baked a penne pasta casserole before...and that's what it looked like. The flavors went really well together. Besides, who can hate melty cheese?

Spinach Chicken Pasta Bake with Three Cheeses

1/2 lb (dry) penne, cooked according to package directions and drained. (I used whole grain penne but any kind will could use another type of pasta, too, if no penne is in your pantry)
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
5 oz (half a box) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups tomato sauce, fresh if possible
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
salt and pepper to taste
three sticks string cheese (or about a cup grated mozzarella cheese)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In the pot that the penne was cooked in, mix together the cooked chicken, frozen spinach, tomato sauce, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil and salt and pepper. Add the cooked and drained penne and stir to combine. Put this mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Cut the string cheese into coins and place evenly over the pasta mixture (or scatter the grated mozzarella evenly over the casserole.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 -50 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted on top.
Serve while hot. A salad and some crusty bread is a nice addition to this dish.

Serves 6 -8.