Friday, May 29, 2009

BBB: A Knotty Problem

It's time once again for the monthly Bread Baking Babes Buddy event. May's challenge was courtesy of Ilva in Italy, Pane di Pasta Tenera Condita (Italian Knot Bread). The real challenge turned out to be finding a few key ingredients for these knots, specifically lard and 00 Italian flour.

I knew where to get the flour, but there was no time if I wanted to meet the deadline.

The lard, I figured, would be easier, but I struck out on that as well, even after searching through several grocery stores in town. I'm sure it's here somewhere, so I'll keep looking. Meanwhile, I substituted shortening for the lard and a blend of AP flour and cake flour for the 00.

The rolls turned out great. We had them for dinner tonight, along with scrambled eggs.


I would say that the dough had doubled, wouldn't you?

Balls are resting.

Now we're ready to roll.

What technique!

(Thanks to camera-proficient daughter for lending a hand.)

On the rise:

On the rack:

Thanks, again, Babes, for letting us play along.

BBD 20: Great Speckled Pancakes

I believe I am addicted to Bread Baking Day events, thanks to Zorra. No matter how busy my schedule is, I seem to find time to bake bread.

This month, Rachel, of Tangerine's Kitchen, is the hostess, choosing multigrain breads as her theme.

Back in the 70s, I had this cookbook in my possession:

Awareness of recycling and healthy foods for the masses was in its infancy, Earth Day had just arrived, and I was at that certain age where passions for causes run strongly. Over time, I settled into a routine that espoused care of the land (gardens), recycling (ahead of the times), and healthier eating (minimal processes foods). At some point, I suspect this cookbook was culled, but one recipe has remained a family favorite all these years: Great Speckled Pancakes. So this is my offering for Bread Baking Day #20.

Great Speckled Pancakes

1 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. corn meal
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 c. low-fat milk
1/4 c. melted butter or oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients. Combine liquid ingredients, and add to the dry ingredients, just until moistened. Heat griddle, greasing lightly. Cook pancakes in any size you choose.

(You won’t even miss the sugar, but, if you do, add about 2 tablespoons brown sugar, honey, or other sweetener.)


In addition the pancakes, I did make a multigrain loaf from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. While it had a good texture and flavor, it didn't rise much, so I ended up with a flat-topped loaf. While I've included a photo, this is one bread I will have to remake to see if I can improve on the rise. Guess you can't have success every time.

Barefoot Backtrack

This week at the Barefoot Bloggers' was supposed to be Outrageous Brownies, selected by Eva of I’m Boring. Still having a container of double-decker brownies remaining from earlier in the week, I chose to do a Backtrack instead. I missed Savory Palmiers when they were originally scheduled, and this was one recipe that I really wanted to make. Having all the ingredients on hand made it an easy decision as well.

Here is the puff pastry spread with basil pesto, toasted pine nuts, homemade sun-dried tomatoes, and herbed feta cheese:

The end result:

Accompanied by a luscious mango margarita, courtesy of Natashya:

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day?

This is also a quick and tasty appetizer for any occasion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Strudel Heaven

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

In the late 1970s I moved to Tucson, Arizona. At the time I was a young lady of leisure, meaning no children and no job, so I used my free time to take cooking classes. There was a kitchenware shop/cooking school in town back then, called the Parisian Kitchen, run by Marie-Odile, a young French woman who excelled in sharing her culinary knowledge.

One of my favorite classes focused on making strudel from scratch. We experimented with different kinds of fillings, from the traditional apple to spinach & cream cheese, from mushrooms to sausage.

I became a strudel-making machine.

As a result, I became the proud owner of a strudel table, built specifically for making that delicious pastry. No measuring was necessary since I knew the stretched-out dough had to be the size of the table. Occasionally, the table consented to do double-duty when it was canning season, but primarily it held out for strudel.

I carried it around with me for years on my various moves, stored away in the garage or in a box. Silly

Thanks to the Daring Bakers, though, the table has a new life and will no more languish in a dark garage.


The Strudel Table!

Truly, I was thrilled when I read about May’s challenge. It felt so good to realize I had a reason to make strudel again, to re-assemble the table and search for my old standby recipe.

The recipes were very similar. My original recipe called for one egg, some lard, and a bit more flour, but, then, it did make two strudels. After making the DB recipe, I will have to re-make the original one and compare the results.

I mixed all the ingredients by hand, then kneaded the dough until it was smooth and satiny.

It didn’t take too long to stretch the dough out, completely covering the table. I had no holes and very little thick edge to remove. In places, the dough was nearly invisible.

I used a Viennese filling, adapted from my standby recipe. Instead of fresh apples, I took dried Granny Smiths, dried sour cherries, and currants, reconstituted them with boiling water, and added several splashes of Amaretto liqueur.

After brushing the dough with melted butter,

I sprinkled on bread crumbs, the fruit mixture, coarsely chopped walnuts, some cinnamon sugar, lemon zest, and some additional melted butter.

I carefully rolled it up, using the towel to help.

I’m pleased with the results, and I have to say that if felt pretty good to make strudel again after many years.

Do visit the Daring Bakers blogroll to see the other bakers' creations. For the recipes, check either Linda's or Courtney's blogs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Double Decker Deliciousness

It was wonderful to have a day off yesterday. I accomplished a fair amount, including baking these delicious double decker brownies, chose by Beth of Suppilicious.

I understand that some of the TWD bakers had issues with the cookie layer sinking into the brownie layer. Not me. The cookie layer sat nicely on top and was even spreadable. I baked the brownies for about 60 minutes, and after cooling completely, the brownie layer was tender and fudge-like. I put cinnamon chips in the cookie layer, which added a little something extra to the overall flavor.

My taste-tester daughter liked the brownie layer, but couldn't see any point in the cookie layer. To each her own.

It's helpful to have a variety of brownie recipes in one's repertoire, I believe, and this one is a lovely addition.

For more opinions, go to the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Name This Animal

As much as I enjoy participating in the various food-blog events, sometimes I just want to bake something for myself. Something I choose. With no deadline or requirements.

So it was that I found a recipe in one of my 'audition' cookbooks that I wanted to try.

You could say that I've been searching for a memory. My grandmother made the best sugar cookies, rolled, cut, and baked; frosted with pale green icing, and decorated with silver dragees. I never got the recipe, and I've been baking sugar cookies for years, hoping to find the one that captures that certain flavor and texture. I'll know it when I taste it.

A few years back, I had a frosted sugar cookie from a local bakery. From the first bite, I knew these were my grandmother's cookies, but how do you ask a bakery for their cookie recipe? Their cookies are shaped like cows, glazed white with black markings. The Best Cookies.

The cookbook I was auditioning was The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. I had made the Beer Bread, which was terrific, then came upon a recipe for glazed sugar cookies, Pretty-in-Pink Shortbread Pigs. Not cows, but pigs. I wondered whether these cookies would be like my grandmother's, so I tried out the recipe.

Pretty darn close, but some small thing is still missing. Even so, I bought the book based on these cookies, although having that beer bread recipe doesn't hurt either.

I don't have a cow cookie cutter, or a pig cookie cutter, so I used another species.

My neighbor exclaimed, "Oh, you made kangaroos!"


What do you think these are?

(Quarter recipe, adapted from The Pastry Queen)


1 stick butter, at room temperature
3/8 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional)
food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Beat butter and sugar together in mixing bowl, on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture slowly to the butter mixture, stirring on low speed. Stop beating as soon as the flour mixture is completely incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the chilled dough to a 1/4" thickness. Cut out cookies and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Combine scraps and reroll one more time.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just brown around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then remove from sheet and cool completely on racks.

Icing: Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and flavoring. Add food coloring. Dip the cookies, top side down into the icing, covering the whole cookie. Set on rack to let icing harden.

**The mystery animal is a Siberian husky. I bought the cookie cutter when I owned 2 of those crazy dogs. Now I own a ditzy German shepherd. Some day, I'll have a husky again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Kitchen, My World: Pakistan

Our second stop of the month for MKMW is Pakistan. After searching through my cookbook collection and several websites, I found two recipes that didn't require a spice that wasn't in my pantry. While I made both recipes and really enjoyed them both, I'm only writing about the first. Mainly because I don't have any photos of the second one. It disappeared too quickly.

That's not to say the first one stuck around too long, because it was just as delicious. It just barely managed to have its photo op.

So, my feature dish is Potato Curry with Peas and Carrots. I had all ingredients on hand, including a very spicy curry mixture, Rogan Josh. This was a lovely, flavorful dish with the coconut milk balancing the heat from the spices. It's a wonderful way to eat your peas and carrots!

I'll be looking forward to the other Pakistani dishes that appear today.

Potato Curry with Peas and Carrots

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the hot curry powder and stir it around for 30 seconds. Add the onions to the pan and saute until they are tender and a bit golden. Add the carrots, potatoes, and minced garlic. Stir well, and then add about a half cup each of water and coconut milk. Stir in the turmeric, salt, and coriander. Reduce the heat to low and cover it.

Check every so often to stir the pot and check the moisture level. When the moisture is almost all absorbed, add more coconut milk and water, in equal parts. Continue to cook, stir, and add liquid until the vegetables are very tender and the curry is nice and thick. At this point, taste it to check that the spice levels are where you like them. Stir in the peas and the rest of the coconut milk (and water if necessary), and cook it for a few minutes longer until peas are done.

(Oh, and the second dish was chicken thighs cooked with a blend of spices and basmati rice. It bakes in the oven, so it's a very easy one-dish meal.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Barefoot Bonus: Lemon Cake

This month's Barefoot Bloggers Bonus recipe was Lemon Cake, chosen by McKenzie of Kenzie’s Kitchen. I love lemons, and this cake is extremely lemony, in a good way.

First, there's lemon zest and lemon juice in the cake itself. Then, while still warm, the cake is brushed with a lemon syrup.

Finally, the cooled cake is glazed with a mixture of powdered sugar and lemon juice. In my case, there's a hint of blood orange juice along with the lemon, tinting the glaze a pale pink.

It's difficult to stop at one piece.

For a morning snack, it can't be beat. This has been 'daughter-approved' and declared almost too lemony. (Is there such a thing?)

Check the Barefoot Blogger site for other opinions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TWD: Fresh Mango Bread

Mangoes and I have an interesting relationship. I like them when I eat them, especially sprinkled with lime juice, but for some reason, I forget that I actually like them, so I tend to pass them by. There is no explanation.

This week, Kelly from Baking with the Boys, chose Fresh Mango Bread for our Tuesdays with Dorie blog event. I debated with myself, trying to remember if I liked mangoes, and finally decided that one of the purposes of this group is to stretch your wings and try new things. :)

So, being the good girl that I am, I made the bread. Since my one ripe mango produced only one cup of diced fruit, I halved the recipe and baked the bread in some mini-loaf pans I had. Also -- and don't faint with this revelation -- I added the golden raisins. It seems I don't mind golden raisins in my breads, but heaven forbid if any kind of raisin ends up in my cookies or cakes. Again, there is no explanation.

Some of the TWD bakers thought the ginger-cinnamon spice combination was somewhat overpowering. Not me. I love those spices and can never have enough. I thought they added just the right amount of flavor to complement the fruit.

So, there it is. Mango bread. I froze one loaf immediately because it was so delicious that I feared for its existence. Good plan, too, since the first loaf disappeared in the blink of an eye, hence no photo of the interior.

My dear neighbor loves mango, and was hoping to try some of the bread. She will have to wait until the second loaf thaws, and then speedily get her piece before that loaf, too, becomes history.

Did the other TWD bakers like the Mango Bread? Tune in to their blogs to find the answer.

(And, yes, that last photo is particularly hideous, but it did show the mango in its true yellow color unlike the other photos. I haven't yet figured out why reds and yellows sometimes come out looking a bit funky after processing in Photoshop.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

BB: Tuna Salad

The first Barefoot Blogger event for May was a tuna salad, chosen by Kate of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails.

I happen to love ahi tuna, seared on the outside, nice and pink on the inside. And, I could well have searched for fresh tuna or used the frozen steaks I had on hand, but I was really, really hungry when I made this Monday night after work, so I chose to use some high quality albacore from the can. It was 8 pm by the time I could settle in and eat, you see, since I had to stop on the way home and find an immediately usable avocado.

It was 8 pm before I could settle in and eat, you see, since I had to stop on the way home and find an immediately usable avocado and a red onion. Taking the time to cook or thaw/cook the tuna was not in the cards.

But, the end result was delicious and satisfying, a salad I would recommend and definitely fix again.

Until then, I'll keep searching for some real wasabi powder to add to my pantry. Did it count that I whispered the name 'wasabi' over the finished salad?

Inaugural Event: Daring Cooks

A couple of months ago, I decided to take on a new event, the sister challenge to Daring Bakers, Daring Cooks. One of the biggest attractions to this event was that, along with a cooking-related challenge, it was only Once A Month. I participate in several weekly and biweekly events, so this was perfect.

Basically, the guest host posts the cooking challenge on the 17th of each month, and the participants reveal their results on the 14th of the following month. Today there should be an influx of stories on the Daring Cooks’ adventures with ricotta gnocchi.

Our lovely hostesses, Lis and Ivonne, began the inaugural event with a recipe from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, Ricotta Gnocchi. This cookbook has been on my wish list for quite awhile, so I was looking forward to trying out one of the recipes.

We could also make our own fresh ricotta, if we wished, and since this was on my “to make” list on my kitchen blackboard, I took the golden opportunity.
I will say, that having made and tasted homemade ricotta, it bears little resemblance to the store-bought variety. It is smooth and silky and just tastes so much better.

Even though I let my cheese drain for about 36 hours, and it passed the paper towel test, it apparently was still too moist for the gnocchi. My first batch fell apart at every turn, and the cooked ‘tester’ looked like someone had an accident right there on my kitchen counter.

Because I was exceptionally hungry while trying to make these, my frustration level was higher than usual. My advice to myself was to put the mixture away for awhile, or risk failing the challenge and turning it into cheesy scrambled eggs.

Two days later, I tried again. Enough moisture had apparently evaporated from the ricotta-egg mixture so that the little gnocchi were easier to handle. I also decreased the size of the measuring spoon, from 3 teaspoons to 2 teaspoons, and that seemed to help. One other note, while I was cooking each batch, I put the remaining ones in the freezer to chill. The end result of this was that the gnocchi were less fragile all the way around.

I kept the serving presentation simple: gnocchi on a bed of sauteed mushrooms with grated Parmesan on top. They were light as a feather, very tasty, and disappeared quickly.

This was a great first challenge. Although I might possibly make the gnocchi again, given the learning experience, I will definitely make the ricotta again.

Check out the Daring Kitchen website for more information about the group and the challenge.