Friday, November 30, 2007

Pumpkin Cake With Fig Filling And Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh, this is really good cake. Moist, sweet, and best of all, filled with a layer of fig preserves. It is also quite simple to make. The recipe is based on the one in From Amish And Mennonite Kitchens by, Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman. As I've pointed out many times, this is probably the best money I ever spent on a cookbook. The cakes and pies are mind-bogglingly perfect-and simple. The best cakes I make are based on the recipes in this book. I omitted the nuts in this particular cake, but a cup of chopped walnuts added to the batter don't really seem needed as it is already so rich and dense. Your call.

The cream cheese frosting needs to be spread on the cake while it is still slightly warm, which also means you will not get complete coverage-that's OK. This isn't the sort of cake that requires meticulous frosting and decoration. It looks most impressive sliced anyway. If you're really intent on having it look perfectly smooth, double the recipe for the frosting and keep slathering it on-but beware the extra calories as cream cheese frosting ain't exactly health food, calcium rich, or not.

You Will Need:

4 eggs, well beaten

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 cups pumpkin

For The Frosting:

8 tablespoons butter, softened

6 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Beat until smooth and spread on cake.


1 small jar fig preserves/spread warmed in a pan until spreadable.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the sugar to the beaten eggs and beat well. Add the oil and incorporate thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and pumpkin. Mix well but don't over beat.

Pour into 3 greased and floured 9 inch pans. Bake 25 minutes and then begin checking for doneness. You really do need to give it the toothpick test to be sure it is completely baked through in the centre. It may take as long as 40 minutes, but mine all finished at different times as the heat is not consistent in all areas of my crummy oven. In other words, watch the cakes carefully.

Cool on a rack, in pan for ten minutes before running a thin knife around the perimeter to loosen. Cool a bit more on racks while you prepare the frosting. The cakes need not be completely cool to frost and in fact will do better with a bit of warmth remaining.

Melt the fig preserves and spread between two layers. Use cream cheese frosting for the other layers and the outside. Chill well before slicing and serving.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I am of fruitcake eating peoples. We always had one in the house at Christmas, though it came in a tin. I'm fairly certain my mother ordered it from the same place each year as she had a collection of the blue and white tins each embossed with a winter scene and the year it wished to commemorate. The tins were intended to be kept (I've always saved cookie and cake tins regardless of intention-what else do people do for sewing boxes?) and I still have a couple in service though the label indicating brand and ingredients has long peeled away.

It was good fruitcake. I couldn't eat the pecans (nut allergy) so my mother would pick them out of my piece before serving (that wouldn't be adequate today I'm afraid as my allergy has grown worse rather than better with age) but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the cake. In fact, it was one of the very few sweets we were permitted. You couldn't eat much of it, being so heavy, though I suspect that made it all the more special-something to savour in small bits. I seem to recall it contained a fair amount of brandy though I have no idea if my mother was (as the saying goes) "moistening" it (pouring booze into it).

I'm less enchanted by the cakes as an adult. I'm sure that it's just a matter of being able to eat whatever I please, and not needing to wait all year for something palatable to pass my lips. I'd just assume skip the cake and go straight for the brandy. My husband however, being Scottish, likes his fruitcake so every year I make one-for his birthday in January. We don't mind having our fruitcake when others are taking down their trees, and it really is something to look forward to after the holiday season.

I'll be making mine a bit early this year (though the cake does well to "ripen" for a few weeks anyway) as we're expecting horrible weather (ice storm) and I will be trapped in the house all weekend (they do not treat the county roads as well as they ought to). What better time than to bake-up a storm?

I ran across THIS recipe from my very favourite home economist in the world, Marguerite Patten. I'm tempted to make it in place of my usual fruitcake as it does sound wonderful and I trust her recipes. I also by chance have an unopened jar of Golden Syrup on hand (I thought Danny might like farls, but I never got around to baking them). Mine uses applesauce for moisture, but I don't really think it would suffer without it. HERE's the cake I usually make.

I'm also planning to make a Christmas pudding which will need ripening time. I may well be on the edge of over-doing it but I'd like to make stollen as well. Since I'm giving home-baked goods this year, I have an excuse for trying out all these new recipes of old favourites. Oh, and the mincemeat-Lord knows I have quite a bit of that.

Now that I think of it, I'm sort of looking forward to the inclement weather.

Vomit (Root Beer) Bark-Updated

As you can see, it looks much better broken-up and placed in an attractive tin. So, does it taste like a root beer float? Yes, it really does. In fact, I'm afraid I may eat most of this tonight as I go back in the kitchen for "one more little piece."

It does leave me thinking you could do this with just about any hard candy-peppermint would be good, or even butterscotch disks. Anyway, might still hesitate to give it as a gift as the colour really isn't very attractive, but it no longer resembles puke once broken into pieces.

Vomit Bark!

Ever have a really great idea that you just can't understand why no one else ever thought of? You know how people make Lemon Bark with melted white chocolate and crushed-up lemon candies? Well I thought, "Hey, root beer barrels would be just like a root beer float-I'll make a batch."

I just wasn't counting on the redish-brown puke colour, and the crushed-up pieces of candy don't help it to look any less like puke. I suppose I lose the right to make fun of other bloggers chocolate crescent cookies that look like poop after this. Well, OK I'm still going to make fun of cookies that look like poop, but this is right up there in the high ranks of ideas that didn't pan out as intended.

On the other hand, I think this might be the perfect Christmas gift for teenage boys.

"Hey look, Goody sent me vomit bark."

"No way man, she didn't send me any vomit bark."

"Goody loves me more."

"Shut up and share your vomit bark, dude."

Now I'll just sit back and wait for the bizarre Google hits (I'm sure I'll be the #1 listing for Vomit Bark) to start arriving.

If you feel compelled to try this:

Melt 12 oz. white chocolate. Stir in 25 crushed root beer barrel candies. Spread on parchment and set in fridge before breaking into pieces.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chocolate Bread

I didn't have a recipe to work from, so I improvised a two-rise French bread and added chopped-up pieces of bittersweet chocolate. I was aiming for something that would evoke eating a slab of chocolate on French bread ( a childhood favourite of mine). I think this is pretty darn close. That said, the bread itself could be improved by less yeast and a long, slow rise. I just wasn't in the mood for a day-long recipe. I must say, for something that only took a few hours the depth of flavour is pretty good and the crust crackled beautifully.

You probably don't need me to tell you how wonderful the smell of chocolate and bread baking is.

I used Callebaut chocolate because I had it on hand. It isn't the greatest chocolate in the world for candy-making, but pretty well suited to baking and at around $9.00 a pound, not likely to break the bank. Honestly, I think a handful of chocolate chips would work fine. I'm just not sophisticated enough to notice the subtle notes people claim to detect in chocolate, though the expensive salt thing is sort of lost on me as well. I like the hunk of Callebaut because it is easier to chop into pieces than those ridiculous little squares of Baker's chocolate-though the taste of Baker's chocolate always seemed perfectly acceptable to me. I would however avoid the Nestle Chocolatier as it is soft, crumbly and tastes sort of waxy. That's really the only chocolate I've ever bought that ended-up in the dustbin. I wouldn't even waste my time making brownies with it.

Do try and resist the desire to cut into the bread before it has completely cooled-it will be well worth the wait.

You Will Need:

3 3/4 teaspoons granulated (not instant) yeast (yes, that is quite a bit)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon salt

4-5 cups bread flour (more or less depending upon flour and conditions in your house)

1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (I left my hunks large-ish).

cornmeal for dusting

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a large bowl. Let proof about ten minutes. Add the salt and about three cups of the flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Turn it out on a floured surface (I use a baking sheet) and begin working in the chocolate, adding more flour as needed until you have a semi-taut ball of dough. It shouldn't be super-sticky, but you don't want it too dry either-just knead it until smooth (about 5-10 minutes). Place in a buttered bowl and cover. Let rise 1 1/2-2 hours or until doubled in bulk (my house is very cold, so it took just over two hours). Gently press the air out of the loaf and fold it once in each direction. Shape as best you can into a ball or loaf and place on a cornmeal-dusted baking pan. Cover with a towel and let rise again until not quite doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes). Half an hour before baking, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Do whatever you do to create steam (I heat an old roasting pan on the bottom shelf and toss-in a cup of water after loading the bread. If you do this, be sure to check your owner's manual and for heaven's sake-stand back! This is also a bad idea if you have an exposed bulb in your oven). Bake for 20 minutes. Open door carefully (to avoid any steam blasts) and rotate the pan. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant read thermometer or until quite dark and hollow sounding. The loaf will get quite dark and if it begins burning, place a sheet of foil atop it and keep baking-the bread is better over-baked than under.

Cool on a rack completely before slicing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Links Don't Work

They really don't-at least not the recipe ones in the sidebar. I changed templates and then something went awry. Someday I'm going to figure it out (yeah, right) but until then, use the nifty "Search Blog" box at the top of the page. Type in the name of the recipe from the sidebar and with any luck, you'll be directed to the appropriate page. Or not. You know, as the kids say;
"Uh, duh...whatever."

If all else fails, leave a comment or drop me an email and I'll try to direct you to the recipe.

So, What Do You Do For Fun?

Hey, know what's fun? How about taking your son for his three-year check-up and having blood drawn? What? Not enough fun? How about having to do it over ten minutes later because the nurse messed-up the label and the lab downstairs wouldn't risk the liability of processing it (even after the doctor called down and explained it). Oh, now that sure was fun-but wait, there's more! We had to get a flu shot. Along with all the poking, prodding and checking of ears for penguins (I really don't know how he keeps getting penguins in his ears, but the little stinkers keep finding their way in) it was a fun-filled trip to Omaha.

It was about 4:30 by the time we got out of there, so we did what any good parents would do-we took Danny out for ice cream. Believe it or not, he still came home and ate a dinner of chick pea salad and roasted red peppers, so I'm not too worried about the chocolate shake.

This was Danny's first time in a Runza (we eat away from home maybe twice a year-tops) and I was really pretty proud of how well-behaved he was, sitting there eating his milkshake, and I must admit I was silently congratulating myself for being such a superior mother-at least until he began chanting (loudly):

I got the runs at Runza!

It was slightly less mortifying than the time he announced publicly: "Mummy's underwear is held together with safety pins!"

Good thing he's really cute.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I have two litres of mincemeat sitting on my kitchen counter. Thanks for the recipe Jenn.
(oooh, I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Orange Slices In Bourbon

From Gourmet Magazine, December 1972

I made a few changes in this recipe (the original called for lemon and grapefruit slices and I did straight orange instead) but still ended up with a large jar of booze-soaked orange slices-perfect for garnishing Old Fashioneds. I'll post the original recipe including the other citrus in the event you can locate decent lemons and grapefruit to make it worth while (I could not).

This was a rather quick project-about two hours start to finish, though I suggest not waiting until late afternoon (as I did) when you'll suddenly realise it is time to make dinner and your large pot is full of simmering oranges-oops!

You Will Need:

Sterilised jars with appropriate lids (the recipe didn't insist on sterilising but, you know me)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 orange, thinly sliced

1 grapefruit, thinly sliced

Boiling water to cover

3 3/4 cups water (for syrup)

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

a few drops of orange and yellow food colouring

2/3 (or more) cup rye or bourbon

Wash the fruit well and slice thin. Place in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Boil gently (not vigorously) for twenty minutes. Drain the fruit and reserve them.

While fruit is cooking, make syrup by mixing the water, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and bringing slowly to a boil. Cook about five-seven minutes or until it just barely coats a spoon.

In two separate pots, place the oranges in one and the lemons and grapefruit in another. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring to the lemon/grapefruit pot and a few drops or orange to the oranges. Cover each with syrup and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, adding more syrup if needed. Let the slices cool and slice the larger ones in half. Combine them and then pack them in jars with syrup and bourbon. Seal the jars and chill the fruit in the fridge.

Make yourself a whiskey sour and go relax. OK, have a couple.

The Cooked Noodles

And here are the homemade noodles from the post below. I served them with "meatballs"made from ground lamb, mint, port, red onion, cumin, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and parsley. Tossed with a bit of olive oil, it made a hearty dinner for a (very) cold Midwestern evening.

Homemade Noodles

I understand some people are rather particular about the way they cut their noodles-I'm not. No, you're not likely top see me taking a ruler to the dough so each noodle can be uniform size and length. Feel free to do so if you're inclined, but I have better ways to spend my time. Believe me, no one is going to notice when they get a pile of these beautiful egg noodles on their plate smothered in butter.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

3 tablespoons heavy cream.

Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well, add the eggs and cream. Stirring with a fork, work it into a ball of dough. Cover and let rest ten minutes.

Knead dough until smooth.

Flour your work surface and roll out the dough very thin. if it is too sticky, keep flouring the rolling pin.

Cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut into strips (some people roll the dough first, I do not). Move to a rack to dry for at least two hours (4+ is actually better).

Cook about 8 minutes in a pot of boiling broth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And The Finished Duck

The duck turned out incredibly well. I didn't really have any special recipe in mind, but instead stuffed it full of herbs, garlic and an apple. In the last half hour, I removed as much of the fat from the pan as possible (to cook the rutabaga) and then added a cup of port and two tablespoons of red currant jelly. I let it liquefy and do a sort-of de-glazing and then turned the heat up to 425 (from 375) and basted every once in a while for the last twenty minutes. That really seemed to do the trick. All told, it took about three hours. One thing that really seemed to help was using a good amount of coarsely ground salt on the skin. It crisped beautifully-probably the best duck I've ever made.

Clean up was...unpleasant. But not horrible. A copper scouring pad took care of the pan and really, it only took a few minutes (hard on the hands though).

There's One Less Duck

-Trying to cross Storrow Drive. Make Way For Ducklings, indeed.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Shhhhh, don't tell Danny I cooked Quack. Or was it Ouack? Or Clack? Or...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rye Bread

And here it is. The recipe made two decent sized loaves. I'm really still impressed that I'm able to make breads like this at home. It was well worth the bother of the three day starter. You can get the complete recipe HERE. I found that it went easier than last year's attempt, perhaps because I knew what to expect.

Steamed Cranberry Pudding

Well, given what I went through to make this little delight, I suppose I shouldn't worry too much that it is a wee bit lopsided. Nothing a bit of hard sauce won't disguise when served. Just an aside, hard sauce is really good on pretzels. You don't need to know how I arrived at that conclusion, it just is-but don't take my word for it, try it yourself.

You really don't want to hear about racks that didn't fit pots, smells of burning metal, overflowing water and all that stuff-do you? I didn't think so. Let's just say that it never hurts to be able to improvise-which is exactly what I did, setting the mould atop two large cookie cutters as a base and steaming it in my large enameled pot. I'm the queen of secondary plans. Anyway, here's how you make the pudding-it will probably go easier for you if you have a steamer made for such things, but if you don't, you really can rig one up with a base in a large pot. Just remember to keep checking if it needs additional water because the smell of pots boiling dry isn't so nice.

You Will Need:

-A strong slug of brandy (for you, not the recipe)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 1/4 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 cups cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional-I omitted them)

Hard Sauce (recipe follows at bottom of post)

Begin boiling a kettle of water. Rig up a steamer where the pudding dish can be raised up from the bottom of the pot and a lid still fits over.

Grease a 6 cup ceramic mould.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add, alternating with the milk. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Pour into mould, cover top tightly with foil, and set in steamer. Add water slowly until halfway up the side. Replace lid. Steam for 1 1/2-2 hours (mine took two) until done. Remove from pot and let stand ten minutes before unmoulding carefully. The pudding can be made ahead and then re-heated, wrapped tightly in foil in a 325 degree oven for forty-five minutes. Serve with hard sauce.

Hard Sauce:

1 cup sweet butter

1 cup (you may need as much as two) confectioner's sugar

1/4 cup brandy

1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the brandy and salt. Chill well before serving. Makes two cups.

Cranberry Chutney

As I'm serving duck for Thanksgiving, I thought it might be nice to make a cranberry chutney as well. The recipe is loosely based on my basic chutney recipe found HERE except I used cranberries and dried cherries in place of the apricots.

It doesn't make much of a photograph, but it really is quite tasty. We had some this evening with some Gouda on the freshly baked sourdough rye. It was a lovely, simple dinner.

You Will Need:

12 ounces dried cranberries

1 large red onion, chopped1 cup water

2/3 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 ounces dried cherries

1 ounce crystalised ginger, chopped

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until almost all of the liquid evaporates. Keeps in fridge about a week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Wow. Today's been the sort of day that turns tea-tottlers into binge drinkers. That's saying quite a bit as I have a reputation for being kind of unflappable. Anyhoo, I hear there's a holiday coming up and people are looking for some good cranberry recipes, so I thought I'd offer a couple favourites.

This time of year I fill my freezer with bags of cranberries and then miserly ration them out through the rest of the year. They were pretty expensive around here, but last week they went on sale for $1.39 a bag so I stocked-up. It almost seems a shame to waste them for Thanksgiving.

In my experience, the less you fuss with the cranberry sauce, the better. Cooking them in sugar and water according to the directions on the bag is still the best use I've ever found. A bit of orange zest stirred-in at the end is nice, but by the time you're adding sections of citrus fruit to it, you're overpowering the cranberries. This is a common tactic carried out by people who do not like cranberries. I'd just skip it rather than subject it to that treatment.

On the other hand, cranberry bread with orange juice can be delicious. Or how about Cranberry Ice Cream?

Over the years, I've made numerous cranberry pies (not even counting the "pie" I made last week) and the following is my all-time favourite. It would be a perfect finish to any Thanksgiving meal.

Cranberry Raisin Pie:

You Will Need:

Two Crust Pastry
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups cranberries, halved
1 cup raisins
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
butter for dotting at end
cream for brushing
sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together in a pot everything except extract, butter, cream and sugar. Bring to a boil slowly (medium heat) and boil gently for five minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into bottom crust, dot with butter, and cover. Make slit to vent. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 30-40 minutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Here We Go Again

I started another batch of sourdough for rye bread. When I started the sourdough rye adventure last year, I finally came to a happy medium of using both First Clear Flour and Vital Wheat Gluten. I think that is the approach I'll use this time as well, though only because I have half a bag of the Clear Flour left and no time to order more from King Arthur (at least not for this batch).

Today I began the starter which requires potato water. Since we were having mashed potatoes for dinner, it was simple enough to save out a cup of the cooking water.

The recipe for the starter is as follows:

1 cup potato water, cooled to lukewarm
1 tablespoon yeast (yes, I cheat and use yeast)
1 cup rye flour.

Stir, cover (don't use a metal bowl) with plastic and keep in a room between 65-70 degrees. After three days, you're ready to make rye bread.

This bread keeps very well once it is baked, and I have successfully shipped it to people across the country having it arrive in perfect shape (or so they have told me). It also freezes well. I'm not making a turkey for Thanksgiving (it's a bit much for three people) but I can't help but think it would be a wonderful base for a turkey sandwich.

This style of rye is pretty similar to what we used to get from the bakeries in Chicago, and somewhat similar to what people call a New York Rye. It does take a bit of work, and last year I tried it numerous times with various changes until i found one that worked. If you type "rye bread" into the Search Blog field at the top of the page, you can see all the attempts on a single page. It was fun, and educational. I hope this year is as successful.

I'm looking forward to some soft boiled eggs and rye toast next weekend.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Advent Calendars

I bought Danny an Advent calendar today. I sure do miss Woolworth's-I never imagined I'd be spending four dollars on one. It's not even religious themed (dontcha think an Advent calendar ought to have the Nativity on it instead of some Victorian looking Father Christmas?) though perhaps that's too much to expect these days.

So I'm standing in line purchasing my Advent calendar and a rubber duck wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David (hey, we're an interfaith family) and a jar of capers when the woman next in line begins reminiscing. She was slightly older than I (I'd guess about fifty) and had a very heavy German accent.

"Jah, they were just pictures on paper, not chocolate ven I vas a child. My muter, Jah she knew I vas peeking ahead."

At that point it sort of felt like the conversation was either going to turn quite maudlin with stories about the Marshall Plan, or she was going to enter comedic territory with descriptions of her mother punishing her by holding her hand over the kitchen range (if that were funny, which I guess it's not, but in the context of a culture that gave us children's stories like Struewlpeter, it has amusing aspects). Instead, she didn't elaborate.

I wonder what stories Danny will have to tell complete strangers about me?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pate Update

Here's the photograph of the tuna pate cut.

The light in here is terrible, and my camera somewhat crummy, but I think you get the idea.

The texture was light and fluffy and it was quite delicious. The clarified butter was a bit much, but it did serve to keep it from drying out.

Recipe may be found a few posts down the page.

What Is It?

First a hint: Gourmet magazine, 1973.

OK, you'll never guess, it is a tuna pate. No really, it is-and wait until you read what goes into it. Obviously, it is an Hore -DE-Orveee (as my Mum used to say)-you don't want to make a big sandwich out of it.

I made a few minor changes in quantity to the recipe, but it is essentially the same.

You Will Need:

2 7 oz. tins of tuna packed in oil

1 tablespoon softened butter

1/2 cup heavy cream, slightly whipped

2 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers

1 1/2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup clarified butter

Clarify butter, and have it ready to pour.

Put drained tuna through a food mill or food processor until paste-like. Combine it with everything except the clarified butter.Pack it into a small dish and cover it with clarified butter. Chill until solid. About ten minutes before serving, grab a defibrillator-wait, sorry I was thinking out loud again. About ten minutes before serving, remove the dish from the ice box and let stand at room temperature. While you wait, you can use the time to surf the American Heart Association website and get caught up on your CPR skills.

Really people, moderation, OK?

The Perfect Sally Lunn

Dontcha wish this were Smell-O-Vision?

The house smells so warm and buttery (except for the cabbage wafting in every now and then-but otherwise....oh so buttery...warm bread...directions in the archives HERE.

I'd Like A Small Cheese Pizza With Onions And Olives

What? I am sooo not out of the delivery area! I'm like, I dunno, sixty miles outside of Omaha-what, you can't deliver a pizza to Saunders County? #&%*(^)_)###!!!!

Now what the heck am I gonna' do? Mummy's making cabbage soup for dinner (of all the indignities I'm forced to suffer, now I have to listen to them toot-toot-tooting all night).

Someone bring me a freaking pizza.

And a gas mask.

Cabbage soup. Oh my gosh, it's like she's writing herself into a Ukrainian joke.

Sweet And Sour Cabbage Soup-Meatless

Cabbage soup is an easy enough thing to prepare provided you are willing to spend time waiting for it to cook. I let mine simmer six hours. If you have a crock pot, this might be a good opportunity to use it.

I made mine meatless, but it certainly wouldn't be hurt by the addition of some beef. Just don't do what my mother used to-she'd cut up hunks of beef salami and toss it in (she did that with mushroom barley soup as well) and heavens, please don't use a jar of V-8 juice in place of the tomatoes-people will notice. Really, they will. In other words, as long as you're not attempting to channel my mother as you cook, the soup ought to turn out OK.

You Will Need:

1 head cabbage, sliced, chopped coarsely

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

2 teaspoons dried minced garlic

2 tablespoons dried minced onion

3 bouillon cubes (the fake beef flavour) dissolved in 3 cups water

1 large tin of Italian tomatoes, chopped with juices retained

5 carrots, chopped

3-4 stalks celery chopped (including leaves if you have them)

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper as desired (I use quite a bit of pepper in this soup to balance the sweetness of the raisins)

Additional water to cover

In a large pot, dump everything and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, skim any foam that accumulates. Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid slightly ajar and cook the daylights out of it for several hours.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cleaning Out The Fridge And Pantry

It was use it or lose it time for the red pepper and mushrooms. I wouldn't call this a "recipe" at least not in the commonly understood sense, but it is a good illustration of what you can toss together for dinner in under an hour. Last evening I did a similar dish with a pound of mushrooms, butter, sherry and heavy cream served over pasta. I like the idea of being able to cook everything but the pasta in a large frying pan as I do not have a dishwasher and it gets hard on the hands after a while (bread baking ain't so hot on the skin either). Clean-up was really quick and painless both nights.

You may be wondering about the frying pan. It is a brand called Scanpan and is made in (duh) Denmark. These pans are not cheap, but they are indestructible. The pan is twenty years old and still going strong. I use it for everything from deep frying to making pupusas. In fact, it is probably the best piece of cooking equipment I've ever used. Period. But they're not cheap, so when you go looking at them on the web, don't freak out because I warned you.

The dish used:

1 tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

3 shallots, sliced thin

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

salt and pepper

(about) 5 tablespoons olive oil

1 red pepper, chopped

a handful of parsley, chopped

8 oz. of button mushrooms, chopped

I sauteed everything in a large pan for about twenty minutes. In the last five, I covered it to let it get softer (You can skip this if you don't have a small child dining with you). I served it over bow tie pasta and tossed with additional oil. Right before serving I added a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.

See, I told you it wasn't difficult.

Cape Cod Cranberry "Pie"

The recipe calls this a pie, but that isn't really accurate. Cobbler isn't quite correct either. The cranberries are sugared and topped with a batter and baked. Pretty easy to make, though mine would have done better with a couple minutes less in the oven.

It should be served slightly warm and eaten soon as I don't suspect it will last.

Recipe from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook by, Jean Hewitt

You Will Need:

2 cups cranberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1/4 cup melted shortening

Optional-1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 inch pie plate. Spread the cranberries ( and nuts if desired) in the plate and cover with 1/2 cup of the sugar.

Melt the butter and shortening and cool slightly.

Add the remaining sugar to the eggs and beat well until light yellow. Add the flour, butter and shortening. Mix well. Pour over cranberries.

The recipe says to bake for an hour, but mine was over baked at forty minutes. I'd suggest to begin checking around half an hour and keep checking every few minutes. The top should be golden brown.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stupid Acid Rain Ruining My Afternoon Of Canning

Consensus is (consensus, meaning the home economist at the extension office, and the woman at the Ball canning hotline) that I should not use recipes from the 1970's that do not process in a water bath for at least ten minutes. As the rutabaga jam needed only to be spooned into sterilised jars, I was advised against it. I could try doing the boiling water bath, but as the recipe is untested it might over-thicken (as it is cooked on the stove top to 200 degrees F.) and be useless.

It's not like anyone screamed:

Oh my gosh, you idiot-you'll get botulism!" or anything like that, but since they seemed to feel so strongly about processing it in the boiling water, I took that to mean, "Oh my gosh, you idiot-you'll get botulism", and really, who the hell wants that?

The problem, (according to the USDA where the guidelines originate) is that the soils are different than they were as little as twenty years ago and due to acid rain, there are different bacterias that can thrive that never used to. Now this could all be hogwash, or an explanation coming from someone that never took biology much less earth science trying to summarise a government guideline-at any rate, I'm not about to second guess the advice. If I were soaking this in booze, like the pears from a few weeks ago or Jenn's mincemeat, it would be a different story, but a jam of rutabagas, oranges and thyme simply does not seem worth the risk. It's not like if we get hit with a nuclear warhead tomorrow that I'm going to be holed-up in a fallout shelter kicking myself for not canning the rutabagas*.

I'll go ahead and make a short version of the recipe to serve tonight and tomorrow. Under refrigeration I suspect it would keep a week fine, but we'll use it over a couple of days as a sort of chutney.

*No, I'm not canning to stock a fallout shelter, though given the state of the world it might not be an entirely bad idea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crown Jewels Cake

Yes, it is Jell-O.

The recipe comes from my well-used 1973 edition of the New Joys Of Jell-O.

This isn't the sort of thing you make everyday (since it takes two days to assemble) but with Thanksgiving coming up in the United States, when people often bring a Jello-Mould to the table, I thought I'd offer-up this beauty. Besides, you're going to need something to offer the pie-phobics. This has quite a bit of fat from the heavy cream, but it is still a far cry from pie pastry.

I would have used a smaller pan (if I'd had one) to make this more impressive. I forgot to save out a bit of the Jell-O to garnish the top though honestly, that's probably pushing the bounds of tacky. I mean, you're making a feaking Jello-Cake-that's not exactly a sign of a cosmopolitan hostess. I dare say, serving this along side a green bean casserole might start the in-laws gossiping, but then, if you're the sort of person that would bring a Jello-Mould to the table in the first place (a person like say...myself) you probably already know the in-laws are snickering.

They won't snicker once they get a taste of it though-this baby is good.

The original recipe called for Dream Whip envelopes which are no longer available here. I prefer real dairy anyhow. It worked fine as a substitute.

You Will Need:

3 3 oz. packages of Jell-O in colours you like for the interior

1 3 oz. package of lemon Jell-O for the cream

3 cups boiling water

1 1/2 cups cold water

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup pineapple juice

2 cups whipped cream sweetened to taste

Vanilla (optional)

Day One:

Prepare the three interior flavours of jello using 1 cup hot water and 1/2 cup cold water for each package. Pour into 8 inch pans and chill well overnight.

Cut into cubes with a sharp knife. Remove to a bowl.

Prepare the lemon jello adding the sugar to the powder. In place of the cold water, add the pineapple juice. Chill until slightly thickened.

When jello is slightly thickened, make the whipped cream, sweetening as desired. Fold the gelatin into the whipped cream. Pour into a 9 inch spring form pan and let chill five hours or overnight.

Beef Suet Update

Ideal Grocery in Lincoln has suet on order but they do not know when it will arrive. I asked them to call when it does, and I will give it a couple weeks before resorting to ordering by post. I'll still take any advice for other places to call, particularly as purchasing it from Ideal means I will have to go to Lincoln, something I prefer not to do.

Anyhoo. things are looking up, and Jenn has graciously sent me her family recipe for mincemeat. I suppose if I find suet I can lay in a stock for making a Christmas Pudding as well.

Holiday Cards And Rutabaga Jam

Here's the prototype for this year's holiday card. It took about an hour, but I figure subsequent cards will go faster as I can cut the pieces all at once.

The photo doesn't do a good job of showing it, but there are designs on the ornaments in a metallic coloured pencil as well as small seed-beads on each bow.

My question is this-do they look childish? I could go to the dollar store and buy a package of cards, but I sort of like making my own. On the other hand, I don't want my husband's family thinking I've gone off the deep end. I'd ask L. but he wouldn't want to hurt my feelings. I'm hoping with the anonymity of the Internet to get a bit more honest assessment.

And in other news, I started the first day of a two day process to make rutabaga jam. It is filled with oranges and lemons (say the bells of St. Clemens) and thyme. Today was slicing the oranges and soaking them for eighteen hours (why eighteen instead of say, fifteen or twenty? Who knows? I'm only following the directions). I should have waited as I have a dentist's appointment tomorrow morning for some major work and canning might not be the best thing to undertake with a throbbing mouth. Oh well, I'm sure it won't be ruined if the oranges sit a bit longer.
This evening, I am serving a rather complicated dessert that I hope will not fall apart upon unmoulding. Film at eleven.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Broiled Persimmons With Brown Sugar And Sour Cream

It never fails, no matter how many persimmons I buy, no more than one will become fully ripe at a time. This is not helpful when I'm trying to prepare a dish that requires a bit of pulp.

Since I had one perfectly ripe persimmon, I split it, placed a tablespoon of brown sugar on each half and dotted it with shaved butter. A few minutes under the broiler (just until the sugar begins to bubble) and I had a lovely dessert, served with sour cream.

The recipe comes from Uncommon Fruits And Vegetables, a commonsense guide by, Elizabeth Schneider. This is an invaluable book that I've turned to for help with everything from salsify to chicory. Few books in our large collection get quite as much use. Some of the fruits and vegetables may seem common enough today, but in 1985, you'd be hard-pressed to find Fioja or Taro easily, even in Chicago where I lived at the time. The recipes are straightforward and easily prepared.

A word about persimmons. There are two main varieties available in the United States. The Hachiya is what I used in this recipe, and it is the bright orange, somewhat conical shaped fruit. The smaller, squat Fuyu is ready to eat whilst still hard, something you wouldn't wish to try with Hachiya (it is quite astringent). My husband noted that this was the first time he'd eaten a persimmon and enjoyed it to which I could only respond-"Stop eating under ripe fruit."

How ripe should it be? Practically water. The skin should just barely be holding back a nearly liquid pulp. The best method of ripening the fruit is to place it in a paper bag (some people swear a banana will speed the process but as I'm willing to wait, I've never tried it) and check it daily. Being a temperamental fruit, don't count on it to cooperate with any plans you may have for it-as noted earlier, it will ripen when and if it feels like it. Persimmons are best minimally fussed with anyway, so grab a spoon and slurp that delicious pulp up.

One other note-persimmons always give me a bit of mouth itching and throat burning-though not nearly as bad as melons or avocados. Allergists have noted cross-reactivity with birch pollen, so if that's a serious allergic trigger for you, perhaps it would be best to consider skipping the persimmon-or at least keeping antihistamines nearby.

Ask A Nebraskan

OK you Nebraska readers out there (and some of you Iowans as well): where can I find beef suet?

I tried the Wahoo Locker (they just laughed), BIG Meats, and Just Good Meat. Apparently, butchers no longer hang and trim the slabs anymore and those of us that like a couple of cups on hand to dice up in the mincemeat are out of luck.

I mean, if you can't get beef suet in The Beef State, I just don't know what the world (or Nebraska) is coming to.

I'd like to find some in the next couple weeks to put-up mincemeat for Christmas. Any ideas?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Guess What I Found At The Library Sale

I am now the proud owner of bound sets of two year's worth of Gourmet magazines from 1972 and 1973. I've already started marking them with post-it pads. When I tell you what we paid, you'll laugh till you wet your pants. Let's just say that library sales in itsy-bitsy Midwestern towns don't value these things the way they do crummy fiction.

I cannot wait to make lettuce pancakes and tuna pate moulded under clarified butter.

The ads are disturbing though. I doubt you could sell a sherry today by referring to it as a "Man's Drink." At they very least, you'd have to change the name because "Dry Sack" just doesn't conjure-up visions of manliness. Any guys out there that would feel comfortable asking a bartender for a Dry Sack?

Some of the ads are for products that no longer exist. We had a great time reminiscing over Kahlua Cups, Holland Rusks, and a powered base that was interchangeable with a mixer, food processor, meat grinder, can opener, etc. You simply popped-on the appliance you needed and it worked off the same motor. I'd sort of like one of those-maybe I should check Ebay.

Danny is getting a great deal of enjoyment from the magazines as well. The automobile ads are fantastic. There's a 1973 Thunderbird featuring the brand new innovation of power windows and a moon roof.

Anyway, expect to see recipes from the old magazines as I'm in cooking heaven-and just in time for the holidays.

A Public Service Announcement

I was only mildly hysterical when I glanced down at the toilet bowl to see my son's urine was a glowing green. I immediately went to the computer and did a search which brought back all sorts of vague yet scary possibilities.

Wanting to have a good sample, should I need to rush him to the doctor, I had him pee in an old, cleaned out yoghurt container (see, my husband thinks I'm crazy to save them but they're really useful for things like storing Legos, mixing paint, or in the case of an over-protective mother, peeing in).

So urine sample in hand, I step outside to examine it in better light isn't green at all. I go inside to dump it down the toilet when it dawns on me-the new shower curtain. I pushed it aside and like magic, the pee is back to yellow. What a neat trick, I should charge admission.

I'm so glad I didn't rush him off to the doctor-they'd think I've lost my mind.

I hope our experience will save other over-protective mothers potential heart-attacks, particularly should they opt for a bright red curtain.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Salt Cod Chowder

If you're looking for thick, white, gravy-like fish chowder, this isn't it. While I've personally never understood the appeal of New England style chowders, there are a heck of a lot of people who do. Bully for them.

This fish chowder is much, much thinner in the liquid, leaving the substantial part of the meal to the fish and vegetables. If you're really hell-bent on having thick chowder, you can remove a cup of the fish stock, cool it slightly and stir-in a few tablespoons of flour. Then, slowly add it back. I realise we all have our food stumbling blocks and if you need your chowder creamy (or your oatmeal salty, or your apple pie with cheese) then who am I to criticise. I will however, try to convince you to at least try the less gloppy version I'm offering here.

You Will Need:

1 large salt cod fillet (reconstitutes to about 2-3 pounds after soaking)

a small amount of oil or butter for a quick saute

4 cups of potatoes, diced (peel if you like)

3 medium onions, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 tin of corn, rinsed

4 cups hot water

2 cups boiling water

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons butter (or more)

Salt and pepper to taste

Two days prior to cooking, begin soaking the salt cod in a bowl in the fridge. Change the water at least three times a day.

In a large stock pot, saute the onions, carrots and potatoes in a bit of oil or butter (or both). Add the hot water and cover. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are soft (about 15-20 minutes).

Wash the cod and cut into large chunks. Add to another pot and cover with the boiling water. Place a lid on the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes over very slow heat. The worst thing you can do is overcook it, so a bit under is going to be much, much better than rubbery cod.

Remove the fish from the heat. Drain, reserving liquid. Add the fish to the chowder. Add the milk and cream, the add as much stock as needed (about 2-3 ladles). Adjust salt and pepper. Stir in the butter and taste again, adding additional butter and cream to enrich as needed.

Bring back to a simmer until heated through. Serve warm Brewis optional (Oh for heaven's sake I'm kidding-even if you wanted hardtack, where on earth would you find it?).

Apple Coffeecake

This week's Friday Cakeblogging returns to the Granny Stark Apple Cookbook by, Olwen Woodier. The only change I made to the recipe was a bit of glaze and parlsocker for looks. Really, the cake does not need it.

I do think perhaps it is time I invest in more attractive tube-pans. After a while, all my cakes begin looking the same-fine for us, but not terribly interesting to look at week after week on a blog.

This cake was easily prepared even with a toddler tearing my house apart as I worked. It does need time to cool completely before icing, but otherwise you're looking at around two hours including baking. I omitted the nuts called for in the recipe and it was just fine without.

You Will Need:

3 medium sized apples (Woodier suggests Golden Delicious, but I used Granny Smith)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan.

Peel, core and chop the apple into small pieces. Place in a large bowl with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Fold into the sour-cream butter mixture.

Stir in the chopped apples. Pour half of the batter into the tube pan.

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon with the nuts. Mix well and spread over the batter. Top with the rest of the batter and smooth evenly.

Bake 1 1/3 hours, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (mine took 1 hour, 15 minutes).

Remove to a rack and cool in the pan ten minutes. Then remove and cool completely before decorating as desired.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

This is really, really good. So good in fact, that I think the recipe calls for individual ramekins to save us from ourselves (harder to make a pig of yourself as opposed to the "just a thin slice" that becomes half a cake technique). I fully intended to pig out on these but could only manage half a dish. It is very rice though surprisingly not all that sweet.

The recipe comes from Food And Wine, but I want you to get it from Cream Puffs In Venice, since she provided the recipe to Blogtopia.

I did not use the absurdly expensive salt called for in the recipe. Even if there were a discernible difference, I'd find it ideologically impossible to purchase it knowing people are eating out of dumpsters. I have to draw lines once in a while and Fleur de Pretension just isn't somewhere I'm willing to go. I used regular old sea-salt that I ground coarse (an adjustable grinder is a handy item. I bought one for spices rather than salt and find it works better (and it was cheaper-go figure).

Asa bonus, I had enough caramel sauce left over to pour on ice cream tomorrow.

Chickpea Stew

Day two of the cooked chick-peas and another flavourful dish. I used quite a bit of cumin in mine, you may prefer to go lighter.

You Will Need:

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves minced garlic

4 tablespoons cumin

4 cups cooked chick peas

1 large can whole tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup chopped parsley

salt and pepper

In a heavy pot, warm the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute over medium-low heat about five minutes or until soft. Add the spices and mix well. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, lemon juice and parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook 45 minutes to an hour until chick peas begin falling apart.

Serve hot over rice.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stuffed Mushrooms With Soft Sheep's Milk Cheese

These stuffed mushrooms have the advantage of being made well ahead before the actual baking. Twenty minutes in the oven is all they require and the prep work is as simple as can be.

You Will Need:

1 cup soft breadcrumbs

8 oz. Package of mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons crumbled goat or soft sheep's milk cheese (I used sheep's)

2 tablespoons water

Remove stems from caps of mushrooms and chop. In a pan, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots, garlic and mushroom stems. When soft, add the marjoram, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs. Stir well so crumbs absorb oil. Remove from heat. Mix in the cheese, Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill the mushroom caps generously and place in a baking dish. Pour the water in around the mushrooms and bake 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Rice Filled Baked Apples

Apples are one of the most under appreciated fruits for savoury dishes-I hope this will help to change that. I wait all year for the local apples and unfortunately the crop was lousy this year in the Midwest. Boo hiss.

I ended up using Washington State apples for this (who knew they grow Fuji's in Washington? Not I) which is fine, I guess though I'm still mildly disappointed.

These baked apples could be jazzed-up a bit with the addition of crystalised ginger, or dried cherries, cranberries or really any fruit you like. I used raisins because Danny loves them, but if you prefer something a bit less sweet, consider experimenting.

I ran out of apple cider so I improvised and used one of Danny's individual serving Gerber juices (he gets one a week as a special treat on Friday) which are conveniently pre-measured to a half cup. If you've never bought baby juice, let me tell you, it is good stuff. I still buy it because it is small (no waste) and because the quality for the price is unbeatable. The apple juice actually tastes like apples. It takes considerable effort not to raid the kid's juice on a regular basis-it is that good.

Anyway, the basic recipe for this came from the Granny Stark Apple Cookbook by, Olwen Woodier, though I made a few minor adjustments. If you ever see this book in a thrift store I encourage you to purchase it as the recipes are unusual and easy to follow.

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons sweet butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup uncooked rice, rinsed

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Salt to taste

1/2 cup raisins

4 large apples

1/2 cup apple juice or cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the butter in a large pan (one that has a lid-you'll need it later). Saute the onion for five minutes. Add the rice, water, allspice, and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and stir in raisins.

Core the apples leaving 1/4 inch around. Chop and add the centres of the apples to the rice mixture. Add salt at this point and taste to adjust.

Place the apples in a baking dish and spoon the filling into the apples. Add the juice to the pan and cover loosely with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Serve hot.

Creamy Chick Pea Soup

This soup turned out perfect. I had no idea what to do with all those chickpeas (I cooked an entire bag) and I still have enough leftover for another dish, but this soup is really flavourful.

If you make this with tinned chickpeas, cut back on the amount of salt, in fact if you plan to use bouillon for the soup base, it might be worth soaking the tinned chickpeas for a bit to get out a bit of the salt.

So much of what I suggest for spice is approximate-my tastes obviously not mirroring everyone else's. You may prefer to go lighter, or heavier. The only way to really know is to keep tasting and adjusting. What I'm offering here is a sort of template rather than an exact recipe.

You Will Need:

4 cups cooked chick peas/garbanzo beans

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 stalks of celery, stripped and diced

1 large onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

garlic powder (if needed later as a boost)


4 Tablespoons of melted butter

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, celery, potato, and chick peas. Cook over medium heat until onions become transparent and other vegetables begin to soften. Add the spices and stir well. Add the broth and bring everything back to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for about twenty minutes or until vegetables are very soft (potato should fall apart easily.

Strain, reserving liquid. Discard bay leaves. In small batches, puree in a food processor (please, be careful when doing this with hot liquid) adding broth as needed. Return to pot. When all pureed soup is in pot, thin with additional broth until you have a consistency you like (the soup shouldn't be too thick and keep in mind that it will thicken some overnight so you may wish to retain some of the broth for the following day).

At this point, you should taste it again. If the soup seems to lack depth it is most likely a need for additional garlic. A quick dash of garlic powder will probably do the trick. You can also adjust the salt and pepper at this time.

Bring back to a steaming temperature. Add the melted butter as a final enrichment and stir well. Serve hot.

Rosemary Bread

I didn't plan to make bread today, but once I decided to make creamy chick pea soup for dinner (and apples stuffed with rice) I thought the meal could use a bit of bread (no seriously, we like carbohydrates. I know that seems like quite a bit, but there isn't that much rice in the apples). Pita was my first thought, but I'm somewhat inundated with rosemary at the moment and really, there's only so much chutney a family can eat.

This is not a slow, start with a sponge rustic style bread. Even so, it does develop a good flavour and as you can see, looks gorgeous. I'd describe it as heavier than a Scala Bread, but lighter than a French Bread. I was still able to achieve a wonderful crust by creating stem in the oven. It occurred to me that I could have baked it in the enamel casserole as I do with the No-Knead Bread, but eh, I'm a creature of habit and I went for the water in a pan at the bottom of the oven.

I used quite a bit of olive oil in this bread (five tablespoons) and you could certainly cut that back or omit it altogether. This bread would also stand up to a couple cups of whole wheat as a substitute, though in that case I would keep the oil in to prevent it getting too hard.

The loaf will get very dark (at least using bread flour) but to properly gauge whether it is baked through, I rely on an instant read thermometer. I baked this bread to 205 degrees F. Sometimes an extra minute or two in the oven is the difference between heavy, gummy bread or light and airy. A thermometer helps take some of the guess work out of baking.

You Will Need:

3 3/4 teaspoons yeast (not instant)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon salt

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh, rosemary

4-5 cups bread flour

cornmeal for dusting

Water for steam

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in a large bowl with the water. Let proof five minutes (or so). Add the salt, oil and rosemary. Add the flour, one cup at a time (a wooden spoon helps if you're working by hand as I am) until it is no longer sticky. Move to a floured surface and knead for a good ten minutes or until smooth and elastic (unlike most of the breads I bake, you want the dough for this fairly firm). Place in an oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours.

Remove dough to a board and gently fold first in one direction, and then the other.

Toss a baking sheet with cornmeal. Shape the dough into desired shape (I did mine in a football shape because I stink at rounds. You could also make a very long baguette). Cover and let rest 45 minutes to an hour or until almost doubled in bulk.

Begin pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees F. about 45 minutes before baking the bread. Use whatever technique you prefer for creating steam. It always pays to check your oven manual as I cannot be responsible if you blow-up your oven. If you're in doubt, I suggest skipping the steam. Load the bread into the oven and shut the door (and keep it shut for 20 minutes. At this point, rotate the sheet and bake another 10-15 minutes or until it is 205 degrees F. on an internal read thermometer, or sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom.

Cool on a rack. As this bread cools, you'll hear the most wonderful crackling sound as the crust does its thing. I probably don't need to tell you how wonderful rosemary smells, but the toasted cornmeal on the pan also sends a wonderful smell through the house.

Allow bread to cool completely before slicing.

This bread also freezes well. My preferred method is to wrap the loaf first in waxed paper and then tightly in plastic wrap. Unlike some of the"artisan" breads, this keeps well and tends not to get too stale overnight. When it finally does dry out, it makes wonderful croutons.