Friday, February 5, 2016

Braided Italian Bread

I made this for my family yesterday.  There's nothing like a good fresh loaf of Italian bread.  The aroma alone makes it worth making.
 The day before you are ready to bake it, you make the sponge (a biga).

1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Mix this together, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and set it aside for 24 hours.

 The next day it will look like this.  Scrape this into the bowl of your mixer.

1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 1/2 to 10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

The Dough: Add the water to the sponge, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, yeast and salt, and knead the dough till it’s fairly smooth but not necessarily elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.

 Divide dough in thirds, and roll each third into a 20-inch-long rope. Braid ropes.

Set the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until just puffy.

Preheat oven to 425F. Gently brush the braid with an egg white mixture made of 1 egg white and 1 tsp. water. Sprinkle the loaf generously with sea salt. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
Remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.

Let it cool before slicing.

This bread freezes really well.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


 I mention my CSA box often so I thought you might like to see what it is.  CSA stands for community supported agriculture. I am fortunate to be offered this option in my area where my local group gathers items from farms in our region and I get a box from them every two weeks from January through June.  It costs me around 25.00 per month.  It's wonderful to get organic lettuce like this in early February. 

 This time of year I usually get a bag of apples.  The box is different each time.

 This week's box gave me two acorn squash.  I like that I never know what I will get and then I have to figure out how to use it.

 I can never have enough potatoes.

 And I love parsnips. Yay!

 They include canned items too.  This week's is tomatillo salsa.

 And a jar of mild shoestring peppers.

I almost always get cheese.  This is a wedge of Cowbelle.
There is always a bag of stone ground oats or organic beans or flour.  This time I got stone ground cornmeal.  Often I will get apple cider, maple syrup or fresh eggs.  I now subscribe to this CSA for six months each year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Happy Ground Hog Day

So, it looks like we are in for an early Spring.  It doesn't surprise me since we really never had Winter and it's felt like Spring/Summer here already.  Oh well, maybe next year.  I made the after school kids these cakes yesterday.  They were so excited when they walked in and saw them.
 You can find my recipe here:

 Make sure to use good chocolate.  I buy mine at Trader Joe's.
 And make sure to take time to thoroughly butter and flour your pans. 

 I frosted these with a silky ganache.

 The dirt is made by processing thin mint chocolate cookies in your Cuisinart.

 This year I added tinted coconut for the grass.

 These might look cute but they are a decadent, rich, moist chocolate cake.

And if you don't want to invest in a bundt cake pan, go to a local thrift shop.  I found these for 99 cents each.

Monday, February 1, 2016

70 Degrees

 It hit 70 degrees here yesterday and was sunny all day long.  Teddy was a bit shocked.

 I asked her if she wanted to feed the fish and get a drink. You can see her licking her lips.  I noticed her right ear drooping.  I sure hope the infection is not returning.

 She was off instantly searching for bad kitties.

She finally stopped hunting to get a drink which was a bit tricky since the pond was mostly frozen.  No signs of the fish, I hope they make it.
This is one of my favorite times of year for this view.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Very Mild Sunday

Just a short post because I have a busy cooking day today.  It's on the upper 50's here.  I have all my doors and windows open and my wind chimes are singing thanks to a mild breeze.
Teddy loves it when the doors are open and she makes sure she walks through all of them. She likes to be able to walk into all the rooms in the house from the outside.
 I've been busy in my workroom making some things for my little friends and I will show you them when they are finished.  Have a great Sunday!  I am off to bake.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fried Rice

I've been making a lot of rice recently which means leftover rice which means fried rice.   The Blog Tech has always been a big fan of fried rice so this makes him very happy.
 I don't use woks or do stir fries because it's tough to get the really high heat you need and my standard kitchen fan doesn't handle that kind of grease.  I made this in a heavy fry pan. Combine 2 T. of canola oil with 2 T. sesame oil and fry 1 medium diced onion and several stalks of sliced celery.

 Add 2 T. of grated ginger and lots of fresh cracked pepper.  Sprinkle in a bit of salt but not too much because it will get some saltiness from soy sauce. Sprinkle with some granulated garlic and granulated onion to taste, about 1 tsp. each.

 Stir in your leftover rice, I had about 4 cups. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, a couple squirts of fish sauce and about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.  Don't add too much soy or it will be overkill.  I find that most people use too much soy sauce in dishes like this.  It should add flavor but not give it an overwhelming taste.

Add 1 lb. of peeled, de-veined shrimp and cook over high heat stirring until the shrimp turn pink. Some people like to add peas and carrots but I just don't get that. But that's just me so throw them in if it makes you happy.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mini Vanilla Bean Cakes with Lemon Curd And Raspberry Filling

I have never really honed my cake baking skills and I hope to do so sometime soon.  I do like baking cakes though I hate eating cakes.  I have never liked cake.
Unlike me, my family LOVES cake.  Occasionally I break down and make some for them and I really like making individual cakes.  The cake-a-holics like having one to themselves. First, I lined each springform with parchment paper and sprayed them with cooking spray.

For the batter I used a basic yellow vanilla cake recipe. 

Not being certain how long these would take, I opened the oven door to check on them too often and the centers fell a bit.  This is why I need to work on my cake baking skills.  This is just a stupid mistake and I should have known better.

However, I soldered on and cut them in half.  I placed the indented side down which flattened out from the weight of the rest of the cake.

I brushed each side with simple syrup, seedless raspberry jam and lemon curd and then sandwiched them bake together.

Then I made a classic buttercream vanilla bean frosting and covered them in it.

To finish, I sprinkled them with clear sanding sugar.

 I tried to get closeups of them cut.  This did not work well.  I also need to hone my photography skills.

Maybe at some point in the future I will be able to bake glorious cakes and take beautiful pics of them.  Or not.