There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
Depending on to whom you listen, however, our standard of living, may, or may not, be threatened by climate change--global warming. Though scary, it is hard to sift through all the shouting and conflicting information to figure out who is right on this issue.
One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black Bread

In my last post I introduced my homey John, who tries to keep me in line.  He has given up trying to keep his bride in line.  A long time ago.  In addition to offering editorial input, he also offers other tidbits.  Recently he sent me a link to a recipe for Black Bread from 101 Cookbooks.  Since John had made all that effort I thought I would give it a try.  I became a little concerned, however, because when I asked him if he wanted to be a taster, he declined, claiming that he was going to be out of town, out of state, even, for the foreseeable future and would not be available to taste the bread.   HMMMMM.

Well, the recipe seemed safe enough, so off I went.  The flavorings are similar to the AB/HB in 5 pumpernickels, with espresso (I used instant), cocoa (I used Dutch), molasses, and rye flour.  It does not use the caramel color, so just common ingredients.  But it does call for 2 cups of shredded carrots!

I mixed up the dough in my Kitchen-aid, and kneaded it there as well.  I had to add a fair amount of extra flour to get the "soft, tacky, cohesive dough" the recipe called for, but then my measurements could have been off a bit.  I then put it to rise, and boy did it!

The recipe then suggested forming it into a ball and placing it on a cookie sheet for the second rise, but the dough was soft, so I put in in a 10" oven-proof skillet lined with parchment paper.  The sides of the skillet helped contain the dough.  Then I covered the whole thing with a bowl. 

Here it is after the second (substantial) rise. 

I slashed the top, sprinkled with caraway seeds, and into the oven it went, pan and all.
The recipe notes that it makes "one extra-large loaf."  And it was not lying. 
But it was very good, soft, tender and flecked with carrots. 

Since the dough was fairly well hydrated, I wonder it it could be adapted to the 5 Minutes a Day method.  It would easily make 2 loaves.  Maybe I will play with that, because we really liked this bread. 

For another adaptation, I was watching French Food at Home on the Cooking Channel and she made an Onion Tart.   She called for a pre-baked pastry round, but I thought "why not some bread dough?"  So I rolled some of my HB in 5 dough (a Broa I had in the fridge) into a thin rustic shape, pre-baked it, then topped it with some light sour cream, thinly sliced onions, and turkey bacon, and baked it until lightly browned. 
Pretty darned good.

And now for a gardening tip.  If you force paperwhite narcissi you know that they can get leggy.  To accomodate that I start them at the bottom of a deep vase.
But according to Master Gardener Sam, once you get about an inch of growth, replace the water with a mixture of water and alcohol--5 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol. (You could use booze, but why would you?)  This mixture affects the growth, and the narcissi stay short!  I am trying it now, and will let you know.

So that is it for this time, see you next time for our monthly challenge.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


This month's Challenge from Michelle was to make a sandwich.   Before getting to that, however, I apparently have some unfinished business from my last post.  In that one I made some sourdough waffles with the new Professional Double Waffle Maker Santa brought me.  One of my fan excoriated me for not addressing what I put on top of the waffles!  Now, a purist would observe that putting anything on a freshly  (and Professionally) made wild-caught-sourdough waffle is gilding the lily.  And as Heraclitus said, you can't put your foot in the same river twice, or was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can  never go home again.  Whatever--the waffle ship has sailed.  But to fill the hole  that my homey John felt  my last post left in his soul, or his stomach, here are some sourdough English Muffins I made
 and here they are topped with some Wild Blueberry Jam
 from the Maine Diner.
Which you can check out here.

Happy John?
Now for the sandwich.  So many choices, so little time. 
I decided to make a Mexican Torta.  According to
A Torta is a Mexican sandwich, served on an oblong 6-8 inch toasted sandwich roll, called telera. Tortas are served hot. Common ingredients may include, but are not limited to:
Pork Carnitas
Chicken Milanesa
Pork Loin
Pork Chops
Smoked Ham
Fried Eggs
Beef Barbacoa
For mine I started with the bread.  I used some HB in 5 master dough to make a batard, or what Lucky Jack Aubrey would call a "French short bastard."  (The Mautitius Command, 97-98).  Since we were in the midst of some unseasonably nice weather, I baked it on the grill.   
 Once it had cooled, I sliced it in half and scooped out most of the the interior. 
I wanted to make a meatless torta, so for the filling I mixed some pinto beans with some salsa and some pickled hot peppers and some cumin until the beans were slightly mashed.  I piled this on the bottom of the loaf, and topped it with some shredded cheese.  Then I broiled it to brown the cheese.  I put some cole slaw mix on the top half of the bread, 
 mooshed the top and bottom together, and cut it in half. 

And we ate the whole thing. 

In closing, I was reading an article in Audubon Magazine on feathers, and the author offered an observation from his mother-in-law.  On reflection, and I gave it some fair amount of reflection, it seemed to me to be an essential and  fundamental truth, so I offer it to you here:

You are never more than 3 feet from a spider.

To those of my gentle readers for whom this might be disturbing, I can only offer the following from James Thurber:
There is no exception to the rule that every rule has and exception.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day Sourdough Waffles

Happy New Year to all.

Now I realize that some of you are perhaps not feeling up to a good breakfast this morning.  I hope that what you did last night was at least worth how you feel now.  I, on the other hand, had a nice dinner, read a bit, then went to bed at a decent hour.  My Mother always said that an hour of sleep before midnight was worth two after, and apparently Dr. Oz Himself agrees!  (Actually, he says that the best sleep comes between 10 pm and 2 am.)  So I was ready for a hearty breakfast to sustain me for the football games ahead. 

We had a very nice Christmas, and Santa was particularly good to me.  I must have been very good last year because I got a new waffle maker.  And not just any waffle maker, a Professional Double Belgian Waffle Maker! 
 No more amateur waffles for us!

If you have stayed at some of the finer hotels, Sleep Inn, for example, you may be familiar with the waffle makers on a stand that you rotate, or flip, after pouring in the batter. Using gravity as your friend, this makes for a more even waffle.  Well, the waffle maker Santa brought me goes one better, because not only does it rotate, it has two, count 'em, two irons!  So you can make two waffles at the same time.  This helps ameliorate, though it does not entirely eliminate, the dreaded waffle bottleneck.  (With only one iron there is a production bottleneck while each waffle cooks which causes demand to vastly exceed supply.  While you can keep waffles warm in a 200 degree oven, they are best fresh from the waffle iron.) 

And although my Professional Double Belgian Waffle Maker does not come with bells or whistles it does come with beeps and lights to tell when the waffles are done. 
It even comes with a dedicated batter dispenser!

To make the waffles I used my locally caught wild sourdough, and made sourdough whole wheat waffles.  They are not 100% whole wheat, but are 60/40 whole wheat/AP flour, to keep them light.  I am currently using 100% hydrated sourdough.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Waffles (or Pancakes)
The night before, mix 200g of your sourdough starter with 80g of AP flour, 120g WW flour and 200g water.   Leave at warm room temperature overnight, covered with plastic wrap or a plate.
 (For Buckwheat waffles use 120g  buckwheat flour in place of WW flour.)
Next morning remove 200g of starter to save for next time and to the rest add 1 egg (or 1/4 cup eggbeaters), 3 Tbs milk, and 2 tsp canola oil.   Mix 1 tsp sugar with 1/2 tsp baking soda and sprinkle on top. Stir gently to incorporate and until the batter begins to get foamy.  
Makes about 3 waffles using 2/3 cup batter for each, may be doubled.

Here is the batter, ready to go.  Note that the dedicated batter measure has a dedicated bowl hanger.  
 And here is a close-up of the batter. 

All those bubbles make for some really light waffles
 which were wonderful.
And even though there were 4 of us, the Professional Double Belgian Waffle Maker made them as fast as we could eat them.

As a final note, I wrote in my last post about our holiday tradition of making my Grandma's Coffee Cake.  Since we make it for Christmas, and it was not yet Christmas, I did not have a picture.  But Katie came through, and we had it for Christmas Brunch, and this is what it looked like (after we had been at it a while). 
So for 2012 keep your resolutions and your expectation modest, you will be happier for it.   For example, our resolution is to not lick the floor.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Traditions

The challenge this month is Holiday traditions.

We have always opened our gifts on Christmas Morning.  We take our time, one person opening at a time, and no feeding frenzy--at least not until brunch.

We usually open some presents, then break for brunch, then finish opening.  For brunch we must have "The Breakfast Casserole Katie Likes."   That is the name of it--it is what it says on the recipe card!  Katie is our oldest daughter.  She is not only perfect, she has red hair.  She also knows how things ought to be done, and woe to any who deviate from her expectations.  (Trust us on this.)

In addition to "Katie's Casserole" we have also had a coffee cake.  For years my mother made the coffee cake, then my sister took over the task when my mother was no longer able to do it.  I made it a few times, then the torch passed to Katie.  We know it as Grandma's Coffee Cake.

The Grandma in question was father's mother, born Olive Pearl Bundy on November 4, 1891, in Washington County Indiana.
 Grandpa & Grandma
My father was the only son, and could do no wrong in their eyes, which was known to annoy his three sisters  on occasion.  (I thought my father was pretty great, too, except on the rare occasions I REALLY managed to piss him off.)

Grandma grew up on a farm, and cooked like it.  We lived in the same town, and often went to Grandma & Grandpa's for Sunday dinner.  It may be my mind burnishing memories, but  and I swear Grandma would usually have at least 2, maybe 3 proteins--chicken, beef and/or pork, and several different vegetables and sides and a couple of desserts.  And that was when it was just us.  When my aunts and uncles and cousins were in town she really pulled out all the stops.
 Aunt Polly & Aunt Mart

That was also when Grandpa would make his home-made ice cream.  I say that Grandpa would make the ice cream, but on reflection, it seemed that he usually delegated all the work and reserved for himself only the supervisory and quality-control duties.
Grandpa took his quality-control duties very seriously!

Back to the Coffee Cake, my mother got the recipe from her mother-in-law, my Grandma.  Which it's why why we call it Grandma's Coffee Cake, and have for over 50 years.  (My mother sometimes suspected that Grandma would leave a little something out whenever she gave her a recipe she, so it would not taste quite the same as hers.)

But I was talking to my cousin Rob this fall, and the topic of eating at Grandma's came up. (Rob  was one of the "out of town cousins for whom ALL the stops were pulled out.)  I mentioned the coffee cake.  His mother (Aunt Mart, above) also had a family coffee cake recipe, but to them it was known as Aunt Hazel's Coffee Cake.   Aunt Hazel was one of Grandma's younger sisters.  Rob sent me a copy of the recipe, and they are almost identical, except that Grandma's has sugar in the batter which Aunt Hazel's does not.  Twin recipes  separated at birth?  Anyway, however denominated, it is an old Bundy family recipe.

Since this is the one we have made, here is the recipe for

Grandma’s Coffee Cake 
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
For the Filling and Topping 
Mix together:
1 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
Set aside
For the Cake
1 stick margarine                              
1 cup sugar                                              
then add
2 eggs and
1 cup sour cream                               
In a separate bowl combine:                                                     
2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
Spread half of the batter in the pan, then sprinkle on half the filling/topping evenly over it.  Repeat. This is harder than it sounds because the second layer of batter sticks to the dry topping layer and does not want to spread out.  Drop spoonfuls all over the topping and spread it our the best you can.  
Bake at 350 until brown and toothpick comes out clean, 1 hour or more (sometimes it seems to take longer than others).

My sister died in 2007, and I think that was the last year we made the coffee cake.  We have been going for something a bit lighter in recent years.  But after writing about it I think maybe we need to make it again, just for the tradition.  Damn the calories and full speed ahead.