Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oatmeal Bread

For this month's Bread Baking Day challenge, Astrid, of Paulchens FoodBlog, chose oatmeal as the featured ingredient. For many years now, I've been making a quick oatmeal bread that goes well with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As a change from all the yeast breads I've been making, I thought I would share this easy recipe.

Thanks to Astrid for being the hostess this month and to Zorra (1x umrühren bitte aka kochtopf) for creating this delicious event.

Oatmeal Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup rolled oats (oatmeal)
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in rolled oats. Cut in butter. Add buttermilk all at once and stir until smooth. Spread mixture into a well-greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 400 degrees (F) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut while warm.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TWD: Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake

At last the cake is ready. This week's recipe, Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake, was chosen by Caitlin at Engineer Baker. This sounded like a great combination to me, so I was glad to have a chance to try it. My one substitution was to swap out the figs for dried sour cherries and sliced almonds. I'm not a huge fan of figs ever since someone told me that a certain wasp lays its eggs in the fruit. No thanks. But I thought cherries would work nicely.

Take a look at the other cakes from the Tuesdays with Dorie group while you're at it. (Note: some of the posted recipes for this cake are missing the butter ingredient, so if you plan to make this, double check the recipe.)

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed

1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal

½ c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 c. ricotta

1/3 c. tepid water

¾ c. sugar

¾ c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon cut into small pieces

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs (room temperature)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the panm, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

Monday, April 28, 2008


This month, the challenge for the Daring Bakers was brought to us by Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms. The challenge was to make lollipops. But not just any kind. These were to be cheesecake lollipops! Now, I don't usually procrastinate on these challenges, but I wanted to use them for a special occasion taking place on Friday, May 2, so I wanted to wait until the latest moment I could. I almost made the deadline -- the cheesecake was made and the pops were scooped out, but they were not dipped and decorated as I was out of town this past weekend.

So, I did some decorating today, and wouldn't you know were having a hideous heat wave in southern California! Dipping takes concentration and it's hard to do when you're sweating to beat the band. So, alas, my lollipops look a bit deformed, but they taste good anyway. That was the challenge part for me, I guess. Dipping.

But, here they are, short and sweet. Be sure and check out the gorgeous pops from the other Daring Bakers. The recipe can be found on Deborah's blog.

And if you're in the neighborhood next weekend, stop by our Quilt Show!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Think Spice, Think -- Cloves

This month, Gretchen Noelle, of Canela y Comino, is the hostess for Think Spice, the blogging event started by Sunita of Sunita's World, which features a delicious spice. The choice for this month is cloves. I decided to find a new recipe for an old favorite and came across this version of Cranberry Sauce, perfect for the holidays. I had to use up some leftover cranberries, hence my selection. My favorite use of cloves, though, is in pumpkin pie. I've been using a specific recipe for years. It is dark and spicy, with lots of cloves, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger -- not one of those anemic-looking pumpkin pies that you always see around Thanksgiving. This one leaves your mouth zinging! I'll post that recipe this fall, so for now, the world will have to be content with the cranberry recipe.

Cinnamon and Clove Cranberry Sauce

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger

Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium bowl. Cool, cover, and refrigerate cranberry sauce. Can be prepared one week ahead.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Marshmallow Update, but No Carrot Cake

First, the marshmallow update:

I asked Dorie about that extra one tablespoon of sugar in the recipe. For those of you who wish to make them again, her reply should help.

Hi Judy,

I saw some of the TWD marshmallows and thought they looked wonderful.

I'm sorry about the mysterious 1 tablespoon sugar -- it was meant to be added to the egg whites once they started to thicken. The little bit of sugar shouldn't make a difference in the marshmallows, it's there to ever-so-slightly stabilize the egg whites and make it easier to beat them without overbeating.


All best -- Dorie

Secondly, there is no carrot cake to post this week. My work project schedule was too intense and I couldn't find anyone willing to eat it.

But I will return next week, with Caitlin's choice of Polenta-Ricotta cake.

Enjoy the carrot cakes from all the other TWD Bakers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More sourdough #2

Since I resurrected my sourdough starter, I've been diligently working to keep it happy.

Today I made one of the pizzas from the Bread Baking Babes -- the Genzano Potato Pizza. This is a two-day process. Last night I mixed the starter, flour, and water, then let it rest overnight. It was really chilly here last night, so the biga didn't rise very much. After I put it in a warmer place, the biga rose and bubbled very nicely.

After about 12 hours, I added the remaining ingredients -- water, flour, yeast, and salt -- let the dough go through two fermenting stages. Then it was ready to be formed into a pizza.

I used a half-sheet pan for the pizza, spreading the dough as far as I could to the edges of the pan. Then I topped it with thinly sliced potatoes, sliced onions, and fresh rosemary.

Thanks to this pizza, I don't have to cook dinner for the rest of the week! I absolutely love the crust, so I will definitely make that again, experimenting with different toppings. The recipe for this pizza crust can be found at Tanna's website, My Kitchen in Half Cups, along with links to the other BBB gals.


Last week I also made one of my most favorite breads ever -- rosemary raisin sourdough bread. I am in love with this bread!. If I had to choose one bread to make every day, it would be this one. It is actually one of the few things in which I like raisins. They add just the perfect texture and flavor.

So, it looks like my sourdough starter is back among the living, for which I'm very glad.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Retro Recipe Challenge #11

So, Stephanie, from Dispensing Happiness, has come up with a Real Challenge For Me this time. As hostess of the eleventh Retro Recipe Challenge, her chosen theme is “Your Mother Should Know” -- meaning you can use any recipe from any year before your mother was born. Thanks a bunch, I thought.

Ah, but I’m not one to shirk from a challenge, especially involving food. So, I called up my mother and inquired whether she remembered any recipes from her childhood. That was more than 80 years ago, folks. My mom was born in 1922.

Well, she did remember that her mother used to serve milk over toast during the Depression, but as for any specific thing, she drew a blank. In a moment of inspiration, however, she did recall that my grandmother had owned a cookbook that used to belong to her own mother: The White House Cookbook.

I was very excited to hear that, because, during some research into pre-1920s recipes, I had come across a fabulous food history website, called the Food Timeline. It’s a great history-at-a-glance for food, recipes, and cookbooks, so I returned to the site to find that The White House Cookbook was available online, thanks to the folks at Michigan State University and their Historic American Cookbook Project. Check it out and you’ll be amazed at what’s available.

Now, The White House Cookbook is pretty entertaining. Not only does it contain recipes and cooking tips, but you can also learn about etiquette, food for the sick, how to get rid of cockroaches, managing state dinners, etc. I was hoping they had some recipe for gopher control, but I haven’t found it yet.

One difficulty was which recipe to choose, while the other difficulty was how to translate a ‘teacup’ into a modern measuring tool. Times have sure changed. The rum omelette sounded good, but involved flaming a plate full of rum, so I felt, for safety reasons, that that wouldn’t do.

Finally, because I love bread, I searched for a recipe that was familiar but that I hadn’t made in a long time. I’ve been hungry lately for some good steamed brown bread, so that is what I chose. There are two versions, one with sweet milk and one with sour milk or buttermilk. Since I have buttermilk to consume, that was my choice.

So, without further ado, I now present steamed brown bread,

from White House Cook Book: A Selection of Choice Recipes Original and Selected, During a Period of Forty Years' Practical Housekeeping

By Mrs. F. L. Gillette

Chicago: R.S. Peale & Co., 1887

BOSTON BROWN BREAD (Sufficient for One Medium-Sized Loaf)

1 c. white flour
1 c. graham flour
1 c. corn meal
3/4 tsp. soda  (2 teaspoons baking soda)
2 tsp. baking powder  (omit)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. molasses
1-3/4 c. sweet milk  (2 cups buttermilk)

Mix and sift the flour, corn meal, soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the molasses and milk and mix all thoroughly. Grease a can and a cover that fits the can tightly. Fill the can two-thirds full of the mixture and cover it. Place it in a steamer and steam for 3-1/2 (to 4) hours. Dry in a moderate oven for a few minutes before serving.

Changes for the buttermilk version are in blue. Interestingly enough, the basic recipe has remained nearly the same for over a hunded years and probably longer. I found a cooking textbook, published in 1884, that gave a very similar recipe with both milk variations.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Tale of Three Davids

Less than a year after starting my new job, I was asked to be on the interview committee for a departmental position we were going to fill. My task was to greet the candidate, show him or her around the department, then take the person to lunch. After each encounter, I wrote a report describing the candidate’s abilities and interest in becoming part of our team. The first candidate was David. I don’t remember much about him, so clearly he didn’t make the cut. The second candidate was David. Again, not particularly memorable. The third, and final, candidate was David. In spite of leaning towards nerdiness, he was quite enthusiastic and full of ideas and suggestions. We hired David.

This is no joke. It really did happen that way.

So, David and his family moved from the east coast to the western frontier. David had a wife and infant daughter. Continuing my original task, I served as a liaison for David, helping him and his family adjust to their new surroundings. In one of those rare moments, both my family and David’s family just clicked, and we became close friends. It was a glorious time.

After nearly ten years, though, David became restless, and he eventually left our company and moved his family back east. It just wasn’t the same after that, for me and my family as well as for David’s family. We’d fly back and visit when we could, but nothing could replace those evenings drinking tea, playing games, or talking til the wee hours.

They stayed in one city for a few years, then left and headed south, where David’s wife had scored a nice job. For David, though, it was more difficult finding employment. He was growing more discouraged, until, through networking among other like professionals, a good position became available. And David took it.

One summer, I got a call from David’s wife. Seems he’d come home a bit shaken. He’d sideswiped the car when parking, something he’d never done before. It was like something wasn’t quite right. They brushed it off, but decided to run it by their family doctor. When I heard the story, I felt great fear. A déjà-vu if you would. I just knew it wasn’t going to something simple.

Another call. After examining David, the doctor immediately sent him to get an MRI. Within 24 hours he was on the operating table. Diagnosis? Glioblastoma mutiforme. Brain cancer. Big time. Prognosis? Not good. Oh, David believed he would beat the odds. We all hoped so, too. But glioblastomas are nasty cancers. He fought a brave fight, I have to say. The toll it took on him, his family, and his friends was great, and for two years, we prayed that he would come out victorious.

Nearly two years to the day, David lost his battle. His family lost a husband and father. I lost a best friend. I still miss him. It just wasn’t fair.

And as for the déjà-vu part, several years before David was diagnosed, I lost another friend to the same kind of cancer. She was young – only 18 – and half-way around the world when she was diagnosed. I don’t think her mother has ever fully recovered from that loss.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who’ve met the cancer enemy. Some have won; some haven’t. I’m truly thankful that my close family has escaped this disease, but I hold no illusions that it will always remain that way.

So, in honor of my friends and others fighting the cancer battle, I offer a yellow treat to the Taste of Yellow 2008 as a remembrance and in honor of LiveSTRONG Day on May 13th. I hope we win.

Thanks to Barbara at winosandfoodies for being the gracious hostess.

Rosemary Polenta

(Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002)

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups milk
2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup good grated Parmesan
Flour, olive oil, and butter, for frying

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold.

Cut the chilled polenta into 12 squares, as you would with brownies. Lift each one out with a spatula and cut diagonally into triangles. Dust each triangle lightly in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and cook the triangles in batches over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on the outside and heated inside. Add more butter and oil, as needed. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TWD: Mushy minty freshness

This week, I was the lucky baker who got to choose the recipe for all the TWD bakers. I had several choices in mind, but since we’ve had cakes, cookies, bread, and pies, I wanted to choose something a bit different. Something that would challenge everyone just a wee bit. Marshmallows were that something.

I only recently made marshmallows for the first time. Back in January, I tried out Alton Brown’s recipe. There are no egg whites in that version, just gelatin, so I felt this recipe would be a good comparison.

Everything came together very quickly, I must say. The syrup was ready just a tiny bit before the egg whites and gelatin – my fault entirely – but the marshmallow batter came together beautifully anyway. I used an 11x 7-inch pan, so I didn’t have to support the parchment as the recipe states (the recipe doesn't actually provide a pan size). The mixture filled the pan perfectly. I also oiled and cornstarched the pan before laying in the marshmallow batter. Oh, and I decided to make them peppermint flavor, tinted a pale pink, with a red swirl on the top.

Pay no attention to the missing corner. Good cooks always taste-test their creations.

I also experimented with dipping a few of them in melted chocolate. It’s a great combination!

Several of the bakers reported having a negative reaction to the liquefied gelatin, which I found interesting. I’ve never noticed a weird aroma before, and I’ve worked with gelatin for years. The next time I make these marshmallows, I will have to pay special attention to this side-effect.

As I write this, I’m excited to see what the other Dorie bakers have created. There are some very talented people in this group. Even though it’s growing like Topsy, be sure and take some time to cruise through the other websites. And be prepared to see wonderful marshmallow-y delights.

(They look like tipsy flying geese . . . . )


(Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pages 404-405)

About 1 cup potato starch or cornstarch

¾ cup cold water

1 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 ¼-ounce packets unflavored gelatin

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Line a rimmed baking sheet – choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high – with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 ¼ cups sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup – without stirring – until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquify it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy – don’t overbeat the and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won’t fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).

Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They’ll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.

Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you’ll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you’d like – into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they’re cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you’ve got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

Raspberry Marshmallows: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies. For raspberry marshmallows, you’ll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to ¼ teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango, and passion fruit.

Cappuccino Marshmallows: Sift ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to ½ teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.

Light Chocolate Marshmallows: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to ¼ teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows: Whisk together ½ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vintage chowder

So, how does one define vintage, particularly if the object is not a bottle of wine? In researching this definition, I discovered a range of dates and no clear-cut winner. For the sake of this entry, I’ll say it’s about 25 years or so. Following that guideline, I apparently have a vintage cookbook collection. Oh, there are new ones to be sure, but I’ve kept some old friends as well.

Now, I’m probably dating myself big time, but do you remember when grocery stores gave away items like cookware and dishes and cookbooks with every visit? When I was growing up, the local grocery store had one of these give-aways. Each week, after a trip to the store, my mother would return home with a new cookbook. These books were part of a series – Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery -- 12 volumes worth of deeply fascinating information. At least for me. Each week, I could barely wait for the new cookbook to appear. There was so much to absorb! Not just recipes (8500 of them to be exact), but histories and stories and poems and menus and photographs and preparation guidelines. My oh my! When I went off to college, I made my mother promise not to give them away, and eventually, they ended up in my collection. I’m still using them to this day, as a reference and as a source of interesting recipes. I suspect you’ll find them in used bookstores now, but I wouldn’t part with my set for anything.

Carla of Chocolate Moosey is hosting this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge and the chosen theme is vintage cookbooks, ones published before 1980. I was already going to prepare one of my longtime favorites from my vintage encyclopedia, so I decided to submit it as my entry in this event. Over the years I’ve played with the recipe a bit, but now I find I use the original recipe just as is. Hope you enjoy it.

Cheddar Tuna Chowder

(Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1965)

2 cups boiling water

salt to taste

1 large potato, peeled and diced (I don’t usually peel it)

½ cup each diced carrot and celery

1 small onion, chopped

¼ cup butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

¾ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (I use about 1 ½ cups extra sharp – more flavor, less cheese)

1 6.5-ounce can tuna, drained and flaked

1 8-ounce can cream-style corn

pinch of dried rosemary

few drops of hot pepper sauce

chopped chives

Put the water in a 3-quart saucepan and season with the salt. Add next 4 ingredients and return to a boil; simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are just barely tender; do not drain. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and blend in the flour, making a roux. Gradually stir in the milk and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Add to the vegetable mixture along with the tuna, corn, rosemary, and hot pepper sauce. Season to taste and garnish with chives.

Makes about 6 servings.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Son of Henry

For the last month or so I’ve had fears that Henry, my sourdough starter, was going into decline. I tried to resurrect him, but to no avail. I had found an old recipe for herbed sourdough rolls that I wanted to make, so I decided to experiment with the starter and see if it was still viable. For an extra measure, I add a pinch of instant yeast, hoping that would kick-start the rise. Well, after going through the fermenting-shaping-proofing-baking process, I ended up with a dozen hocky pucks. I knew, then, that Henry was nearing his end.

I did try one last ditch effort, with assistance from Mary aka Breadchick (The Sour Dough), to try and revive Henry. But even that didn’t work.

However, during the revival process, I decided to experiment. I noticed that there were 3 distinct layers to Henry – the thick bottom layer of the flour-water mixture, the thin liquid layer (Hooch, as Mary calls it), and the thinner, top bubbly layer. With nothing to lose, I carefully scraped off that top bubbly layer and placed it in a clean container. I then proceeded to feed it once a day for the following week, building it up and observing how the bubbles formed, dispersed, and remained. Each day was more encouraging – the starter bubbled appropriately, but, more importantly, the main body also was bubbly.

Yesterday was the test. Once again, I made the herbed sourdough rolls with a small addition of instant yeast for luck. This time there was success! Son of Henry will now take his rightful place. The rolls have a pleasant sour taste and are as good as I remember them. My next effort will be to make the rosemary raisin bread again, and if SOH does well, I will be pleased and will be able to relax (only a little).

As for original Henry, I guess he will have to be permanently retired, but at least his legacy lives on.

Sourdough Fresh Herb Rolls

1 ½ cups starter

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped, mixed, fresh herbs (chives, parsley, basil, etc.) or 2 teaspoons dried

2 cups unbleached flour

Mix starter, salt, sugar, and melted butter; beat egg slightly and add. Mix in herbs and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead until smooth, adding additional flour as necessary. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 2 hours. Deflate dough; form into rolls, and place on a cornmeal-dusted sheet pan. Let rise until doubled; brush tops with melted butter to prevent drying.

Bake at 400º F. for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12 large or 18 small rolls.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TWD: Decadent Lemony Goodness

This dessert should be declared illegal. That’s all there is to it. And, not only that, one week shy of ‘my turn,’ I was trumped!! On the bright side, at least I finally got the chance to make this scrumptious filling, one that I’ve been drooling over since I bought the book. (Hey, I don’t rush into things…..)

Thanks to Mary from Starting from Scratch, this week’s TWD project was The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart.

Basically, you make a lemon curd but with a twist, so it comes out light, creamy, and heavenly. Among the TWD bakers, though, were issues regarding the cooking temperature and thickness of the lemon filling. Many people could not get the filling to reach the recommended temperature of 180 F, and some had a runny rather than thick filling. There could be any number of reasons for these issues, but the primary one seems to be whether a metal or glass bowl was used in the preparation. For me, it took only 7 minutes to cook the curd and reach the final temperature. I used a stainless steel bowl, a gas cooktop, and a reliable thermometer. Prepared to wait 10-15 minutes for thickening to occur, I dozed while I whisked, only to be startled awake at the 6 minute mark by quickly-thickening curd. Yikes.

The next step in the preparation was to add in the butter to the warm filling, using a blender (preferred) or food processor. OK, first time through I’ll use the recommended utensil, the blender. This lemony goodness was so thick that the blender just sat there whirring. It worked, but for science’s sake, I will use the processor next time and then compare results.

The filling rested in the refrigerator overnight. The following morning I made the crust, choosing to make individual tarts rather than one large one. The most difficult part of this whole adventure was being patient and waiting for the crust to chill, bake, and cool.

Finally, the time had come to assemble the little guys. Whisking the chilled filling made it velvety smooth and just perfect for the tarts.

As I said at the beginning, this dessert should be illegal, it is that good.

Check out the renditions from all the other TWD bakers. You can find the recipe at Serious Eats, thanks to Dorie.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Easter M&Ms

This year, for the first time, there was no Easter candy in the house. This situation presented a challenge in itself if I wanted to create an entry for the March Master Baker, hosted by Nikki of Crazy Delicious. So, of course, that meant actually going out and buying Easter candy, a dangerous proposition since I would most likely eat it all. By myself. :( Well, if that was the deal, then I might as well buy something I like. Right? I knew what I would make, which made it easy to decide – M&M cookies, of course, using pastel Easter M&Ms in the dark chocolate variety. In theory I could freeze the extras and then munch on them whenever I get cookie cravings.

So, here you are. Easter M&M cookies, using my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise. I’m not a huge fan of the flat, crisp chocolate chip cookie, so the formula in this book let’s you decide among 3 varieties: thin, puffy, and in-between. Normally, I bake the in-betweens.

M&M cookies

(adapted from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups cake flour

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

5 tablespoons butter and 5 tablespoons shortening

¾ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). On a large baking sheet, toast the pecans for 10 to 12 minutes. While the nuts are still hot, stir in the 2 tablespoons butter.

Turn the oven up to 375 degrees (F).

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Cream butter/shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Then add the pecans and M&Ms, mixing them in well.

Lightly grease cookie sheets or use parchment. Either using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop (1 ½ inches in diameter), drop slightly heaped scoops of batter about 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheet on a cooling rack for 3 minutes, then remove the cookies from the sheet to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 ½ dozen.

(You can play with nut and chip combinations.)

Check out the Master Baker site for other yummy Easter creations.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ooey Gooey -- TWD

Yep. It’s that time of the week again. Tuesday.

This week our TWD challenge was brought to us by Leigh of Lemon Tartlet: Gooey Chocolate Cakes. Oh My. Just thinking about this one made my teeth tingle. And unlike all the past weeks, I waited until Monday night to bake, not sure if I was going to do it or not, or make a half batch or a whole batch.

But, hey, my adoring public would be disappointed!

So, at the last moment, I decided to make a whole batch – 6 gooey cakes. We’ll see how the remaining five hold up, since my ever-faithful food-tasting neighbor decided to leave town for spring break. The nerve.

The recipe is easy and only requires a gentle touch. But, I offer two pieces of advice: have everything ready ahead of time, pans, ingredients, oven, etc; and, (my secret tip), to be sure the cakes will unmold, line the bottoms of the little muffin tins with a circle of wax paper, buttered and floured. Piece of cake.

The results:

Just out of the oven.

Neatly out of the pan.

Accompanied by ice cream and a splash of powdered sugar. (It's green tea ice cream. It's all I had. Actually tasted alright with the chocolate.)

A nice amount of gooey goodness in the center, not too hard, not too runny, but just right.

Be sure and check out the results from the other TWD Bakers. We've surpassed the 100 mark!