Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Well Past 17 - and a Land of St. Honore' update

Octobers of late have always had more excitement than one would like. This year it's when our 14+ year old lab suddenly couldn't walk, stand on his own, eat on his own and his poor body was twisted like a cooked shrimp. Our focus became one of keeping him alive and working to get him better. In all the upheaval I neglected to celebrate the 17th 'blogversary' of Feeding My Enthusiasms. Who knew that I would still be finding things to post about so many years and recipes later? Take a look at the bread I just posted for the Bread Baking Babes...a yeasted bread with fresh persimmon...never even thought to make that before. No telling what this year will bring...new recipes and techniques I'm sure.

I do occasionally check stats and discovered that someone had checked out a post from 2010 where I made glazed popcorn with cranberries and chopped almonds. That wouldn't be noteworthy especially, but I decided to check out the post and discovered that it was also one of my Land of St. Honore' stories...and not for a Daring Bakers post either. Then I checked the link I have on the sidebar to some collected Land of St. Honore' posts and discovered that I had put that one in, but that I had left out others from 2010.

The result is that I've updated that link on the sidebar (Land of St. Honore' posts found here) to include and additional 5 stories...with perhaps more to come as I discover them. 

I started writing about the imaginary Land of St. Honore' when the number of Daring Baker posts became so large that it was difficult to read them because post after post sounded so much alike. We are all making the same recipe and there is only some latitude for variations, so what can you say that stands out? The solution was to write little stories which included the dish being made. I had so much fun with writing the small fictions that I kept it up and even did some, like the candy corn, on days that had nothing to do with the Daring Bakers. Eventually the DBs became too large to be fun, so I stopped participating. Every now and then another Land of St. Honore' story was written, just because I enjoyed it. If I find more, I'll add them to the link.

To get to the link on the sidebar, make sure you are in 'web view'. When I look up my blog on my iPhone or iPad, I need to scroll to the bottom and click on 'web view'. When I do, the side bar includes a lot of things...A Welcome, A Recipe Link which is activated by clicking on the photo of the set table, Bread links for 2011, The Blog Archive (most recent at the top), Bread Blog link, then links to favorite blogs and followers, then the Bread Baking Babes, and THEN the Land of St. Honore' link!

The new links include a delicious orange dessert (top of blog post photo), which is great at this time of year,  

a Rhubarb-Strawberry Steamed Pudding which is great in April or May, somewhat exotic things like 

stacked Cream Puffs and chocolate Pavlova, and 

Brownies...with all of the ingredients in a jar for gift giving if you like. 

Once you get reading those, I'll bet you will enjoy the rest with things like 

Banana Bread and Vol au Vents, 

Bakewell Tarts and Chocolate Whiskey Cake, 

a Chocolate Valentino Cake and Tuiles (one of the funnier stories), plus savory bakes like Pizza and a 

Fresh Spinach Pasta Lasagna. Hard to believe I had that much energy nine or ten years into the 'new century'!

Hope you enjoy the stories and maybe find a new recipe or two to try.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Bread Baking Babes Try Something Different

Did you know that you can eat banana peel? Neither did I. The bread that many of the Bread Baking Babes are making today used a whole frozen banana, peel and all. I'm not eating bananas right now, so I substituted persimmon pulp...not nearly the same, but it turned out fairly well. Our Kitchen of the Month is the audacious and delightful Elizabeth of blog from OUR Kitchen blog. I do hope that you will make HER version!

If you would like to be a Buddy, contact Elizabeth and send her your URL and a photo, plus a brief description of your bake by Jan. 29th and she will send you the beautiful Buddy Badge. Be sure to see what the other Babes have done with this unusual recipe. They are all very experienced bread bakers, so it should be fun to see their iterations.

As you know if you have been reading this blog all along, I rarely follow a recipe the way it is written, even baking recipes. Substituting persimmon pulp for banana puree sounded straightforward, but turned out to be something else. I cooked the persimmon pulp to help evaporate some of the excess water but even so the recipe seemed to have a lot of liquid and I ended up adding a significant amount of extra flour (using bread flour because I have a lot of it) which sort of muted the persimmon flavor. It was still tasty and the addition of spices and the cinnamon filling helped, too, although there may have been too much cinnamon flavor...next time I would use less. I liked the nutty taste from the whole wheat flour and wheat germ used. Even though there was some brown sugar, this really isn't a very sweet bread.

This was a sloppy dough for much of the time I worked with it, but I knew that I wanted to make two medium wreaths with the dough and that I wanted some definition of the layers, so a truly slack dough wasn't going to work. Eventually I realized that I would need to knead in additional flour, but I was surprised that it was far more than a 1/2 cup. After a while I stopped measuring, so you won't be able to replicate my bread. Try the banana one instead if you can eat bananas. You may still need to add extra flour, but probably less if you use the loaf pan method of shaping. The recipe for the banana one is further below. You can make bread or buns.

For the persimmon one, scoop the flesh from two very ripe Hachiya persimmons (the kind that look kind of like a heart, not the flat-ish ones), mash with a close-tined fork or in a food processor, then cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes at medium-low heat to cook off some of the excess moisture. Let cool, mash again with a fork to break up into a puree, then use like the banana in the recipe (once the banana and peel have been pureed). Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon allspice to the flour and whisk it in to that it is thoroughly combined with the flour mixture. You may need to add additional flour, but go slowly so that you don't add too much. If you are shaping to put into the loaf pans, you probably won't need too much additional flour. For the filling, use half as much cinnamon as described in the banana recipe. I made my dough stronger with bread flour for the additional flour, then when it was time to shape, I cut the dough in half, rolled the half into a rectangle, spread with half the cinnamon filling (leaving unfilled edges for sealing), then rolled up along the long side. I used a serrated knife to cut the roll in half long-wise, then 'braided' the two halves, keeping the cut sides up and then formed that 'braid' into a circle, tucking the ends under. Let rise again, then bake, just as in the banana recipe, but using less baking time than the loaf, but more than with buns. When cool, if desired, glaze with a combination of confectioners sugar and warm milk...just a tiny bit of milk.

Here is the actual January 2023 Bread Baking Babes recipe:

Wild Banana (peel and all) Cinnamon Bread (or Buns)
based on a recipe in the "Tassajara Bread Book" by Edward Espe Brown, with notes about the recipe from "Bread Alone" by Judith Ryan Hendricks, and the method for using ALL of the banana in the Washington Post's recipe for "Don't Peel Your Banana Bread" (quickbread)


  • 1 ripe banana, washed thoroughly, and frozen


  • 50 grams (98 ml) whole wheat flour
  • 50 grams (50 ml) water
  • spoonful (~15 grams) wild yeast starter from the fridge


  • 410 grams (3+1/3 c) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 10 grams (1 Tbsp) buckwheat flour
  • 12 grams (24 ml) wheat germ
  • 30 grams (30 ml) plain yoghurt
  • 170 grams (170 ml) water
  • 2 Tbsp (27 grams) vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • all of the leavener from above
  • banana from above, thawed
  • 14 grams (1 Tbsp) brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 8 grams (generous 1 tsp) seasalt + 10 grams (10ml) water


  • 60 grams (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 28 grams (2 Tbsp) brown sugar
  • 25 grams (2 Tbsp) white sugar
  • ground cinnamon (or a mixture of ginger and cinnamon), to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • handful or two of pepitas and/or raisins, optional
  1. prepare the banana: Two days before you plan to bake the bread, thoroughly wash a ripe bananas (ideally, the banana should be well-mottled with black spots). Just to be sure that any oil-based pesticides are removed, for washing, I use bio-degradable dish-soap (NOT antibacterial!) and water, plus plenty more water to rinse. Dry the banana, then cut the stem and bottom edge off (put those into the compost), and place the banana in a freezer bag to freeze. The next morning on the day before you plane to bake the bread, take the banana out of the freezer and put it (still in its freezer bag) into the fridge to thaw.
  2. leavener: The night before you plan to bake the bread: mix leavener ingredients in a smallish bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave overnight in the oven with only the light turned on if it's cool at night, (or with the light turned off if it's warm in the kitchen).
  3. dough: On the morning of the day you will be baking the bread:
    • check the leavener: see if a small spoonful floats in a bowl of cool water. It probably will. But, if the leavener has a concave surface, sprinkle in a little more whole wheat flour and the same amount by weight of water. Stir, cover and let rest for about 30 minutes to check again. It's very likely that it will float. When it floats, proceed with making the dough.
    • dry ingredients and leavener: Sift the all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl large enough for the final dough to triple. Add the buckwheat flour and wheat germ, and all of the leavener from above. Add yoghurt, 120 grams of water [change that to 150 grams], vegetable oil, and all of the leavener to the bowl. Use a wooden spoon (or dough whisk) to mix everything in the bowl together to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
    • banana: The Washington Post's "Don't Peel Your Banana Bread" recipe is based on the recipe for Zingerman's Bakehouse Banana Bread. That recipe has the best explanation for how to prepare the bananas for the dough itself:1. Prepare the bananas. [...] Defrost. As the bananas freeze and defrost they will turn black. They do not need to be black prior to freezing. [...] Puree until they are a smooth paste. You may see tiny dark specks of the peel. This is fine.
      - Zingerman's Bakehouse Banana Bread Recipe (pdf) (https://www.ypsilibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Zingermans-Bakehouse-Banana-Bread-Recipe.pdf)
      I found it easier to cut the banana into chunks before puréeing it. I also left some all of the inside pulp in the bowl before pulverizing the rest.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the brown sugar into the pulp of the banana purée. Put the rest of the water (20 grams) in with the peels. Please don't be alarmed about the very dark colour that results from puréeing. It will simply make the final dough a little darker colour. Put the purée into a smallish bowl.
    • Using a wooden spoon, mix the peel purée into the banana sludge. Dump this mixture on top of the dough that has been resting.
    • adding the egg and salt: in a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the salt and 10 grams water. Pour this mixture over top of the banana mixture.
    • Kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the banana/sugar/egg/salt/water mixture into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like maybe it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than weirdly folded, slimy glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Don't be overly terrified that the dough seems to stay really gloppy and sticky. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
      The dough will be kind of sticky and pretty loose. I added a couple of extra tablespoons of flour to bring the dough together, but it wasn't that easy to shape.
      - Karen K, Karen's Kitchen Stories | Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread (https://www.karenskitchenstories.com/2022/07/yeasted-banana-sandwich-bread.html)
    • Repeat the above step 2 or 3 more times.
  4. filling: melt the butter and allow it to cool to room temperature. Combine the sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cover and set aside at warm room temperature.
  5. shaping: when the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured board. Divide into 2 equal pieces.
    • loaves: Gently shape the dough into flat rectangles that are about 2 centimeters thick. Smear the filling over each rectangle and roll like jelly rolls, from the narrow side, to make 2 loaves. Put the rolls seam side down in parchment paper covered bread tins. Run your hands under water and gently wet the top of the shaped bread. If you're using them, scatter pepitas on top. Cover the tins with a damp clean tea towel and let rise at warm room temperature until almost double. To test if it has risen enough, flour your finger and press gently on the edge - it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
    • instructions for shaping and cutting buns
      buns: Using a lightly floured wooden rolling pin, roll one of the pieces, as thinly as you can, into a long rectangle. Evenly slather the top of the rectangle with half the melted butter and half the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll the rectangle up as tightly as you can to form a long tube. Cut diagonally and use a chopstick to press down the centers so that the spiral flares out. Place well apart on parchment covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Cover the shaped buns with a damp tea towel and let sit in a warm, non-drafty spot until they have almost doubled.
  6. preheat the oven: A half hour before baking, turn the oven to 400F.
  7. baking: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the loaves or buns are golden. But first:
    • bread: Just before baking, liberally spray the tops of loaves with water. Put the bread on the middle shelf of the oven, immediately turning the oven down to 375F (the sugar wants to burn...).
    • buns: Put the buns on the top shelf of the oven, immediately turning the oven down to 375F. Half way through baking, turn the buns around and turn the oven down to 350F; with all that sugar, the bottoms of the buns really want to burn.
  8. cooling: If you have made buns, place them still on the parchment paper on a footed rack on the counter to cool completely. If you have made bread, remove it from the pans, and place each loaf on its side to cool on the footed rack. Check to see that the bread is done by rapping it on the bottom; it should sound hollow like a drum. If you only hear dull thuds, put the bread back into the still hot oven - directly on the rack (there's no need to put it back into the tins - for 5 or 10 minutes more. Once it is done, place it on the footed rack to cool completely before cutting into it. It is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

I grew up eating a meat loaf made with ground beef, enhanced with tomato juice and oatmeal and an egg. It fed the whole family until the next to the last kid was old enough for it but by then the older kids were often gone at dinner time babysitting, so I think that the recipe worked just fine my whole childhood, even though there were ten of us at dinner some of the time. Since it takes about the same amount of time to bake potatoes as to bake the meatloaf, the next oven rack down usually had the potatoes baking to be served with the meat loaf. 

I got the recipe from my Mom when I moved to California and made it myself but these days I can't eat beef, so I have to be creative. 

Tonight's version is made with Italian sausage and ground pork. Because the Italian sausage comes already seasoned, I didn't add salt and did add some extra mixed Italian seasonings to make it even more Italian in flavor. Beyond that I only sprinkled some black pepper over the ketchup to tone down the sweetness. Because I love mushrooms, I added finely chopped mushrooms to the mix, plus the usual onion and oatmeal. I added chopped parsley and tomato and skipped the tomato juice. I  forgot to put in the egg...but I did coat the top with the ketchup and a sprinkle of black pepper right before putting it into the oven to cook. 

Italian Meatloaf 

Serves 8

1 1/2 pounds ground meat - I used 3/4 ground pork and 3/4 Italian sausage
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup finely chopped cremini mushrooms
1 diced tomato
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
3/4 cup oatmeal (rolled oats), uncooked
2 tablespoons ketchup
a dash of ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small sheet pan with a silicone liner or foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl place the ground meat, chopped onion, chopped mushrooms, diced tomatoes, parsley, Italian seasonings and the uncooked rolled oats (oatmeal). Use your hands to gently mix thoroughly. Form into a rough ball in the bowl, pour out onto the prepared pan, then use your hands to shape in an oval loaf. Spread the ketchup thinly over the top of the loaf and sprinkle with the black pepper. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Check for doneness - thermometer should read at least 175 degrees. If lower, return to oven. Can take up to 1 hr 10 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve hot. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Quiche For Sweetie

Sweetie wasn't feeling up to par on Jan. 1, but by the next day he was better. Since we didn't party on New Year's Eve, just toasted each other with Irish Coffee, I think he was fighting off a cold. Of course I wanted to bake something to cheer him up...it's what I do. Since we had left over ham and cheese from Christmas, I decided to make quiche, one of his favorite things.

A good quiche has a flaky crust, so I blind-baked my stand-by ReadyCrust and let it cool. For the filling I had sautéed onions and sliced mushrooms, cubes of ham, small cubes of brie, and frozen chopped spinach (well drained). I added an extra egg to the filling so that it would be a bit firmer than usual. Because of that, it cut cleanly and served neatly while still very warm. 

Leftover will keep in the fridge a few days, if you have any. A nice side with this is a fruit compote or a green salad.

By the way, my Christmas tree is still up, but I will be taking it down soon. Each of the ornaments will be carefully put away for next year. In a way, that's similar to planting seeds...there is the faith that there will be a next year, a spring, a harvest, a celebration in the future. Since I received art supplies for Christmas and just cleaned up my studio, my attention is being drawn to my art journal and the next painting...

Ham and Brie and Mushroom Quiche with Spinach

1 blind-baked 9-inch single pie crust, fluted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped finely
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
dash of pepper
1 cup diced cooked and cooled ham

1/2 cup brie cheese in small dice
1/2 cup chopped spinach...preferably frozen and thawed

3 (or 4 as I did) large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I used unsweetened oat milk)
dash ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Keep the pie crust warm while preparing the filling.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil, then sauté the onions and mushroom 3 minutes over high heat, stirring often, until onion is lightly golden and mixture is losing its moisture. Stir in the thyme and pepper. Place this mixture into the bottom of the pie crust. Top with the ham cubes, distributing evenly.

Evenly distribute the brie cheese over the veggie mixture. Warm the chopped spinach in the microwave and then wrap in paper towels and squeeze the extra moisture out. Place clumps of the spinach evenly over the ham.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs lightly with a fork or whisk and then beat in the milk and nutmeg and pepper. Pour this mixture over all of the filling ingredients in the pie plate. The filling will just come to the top of the pan sides.  If desired, brush the fluted crust with milk (optional).

Place pie pan on a small baking sheet and bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. If necessary, cover the fluted crust with foil if it starts to brown too much.

Cool quiche on a rack for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
Serves 4 - 6.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Happy New Year! Some Tips

                            Mis en place and spelt flour...for two tips

 No, I didn't make any New Years resolutions per se, but I do plan on eating lighter and also I want to share some of my cooking and baking tips. You may (or may not) find something that you'll find useful next time you cook or bake.

The first tip is for baking. Don't stress about sifting flour. I understand that baking is really a lot of chemistry and that proportions matter, but today's flour only needs to be fluffed up in the bag or container before you measure. I have a scoop in my flour container, so I use that to lift up flour all around the container and then slowly let it fall from the scoop, which I'm holding a good six inches above the flour in the container. Once I've done that a few times...takes seconds!...I use the scoop to fill the measuring cup, then use a knife (or in a pinch my flattened index finger) to remove any flour above the measuring cup lip. The best recipes have you weighing the flour anyway, but this works for the recipes that only give measuring cup measures. 

Another tip is also mostly for baking. Having your ingredients at room temperature is really important for baking (unless the recipe tells you to chill an ingredient, or melt the butter, and so on). The ingredients will blend better, if you are creaming butter, it will aerate better, eggs will mix in to a butter/sugar mixture better, and so on. The tip is that if you have forgotten to warm your eggs, you can put them into a mug of really warm water for a few minutes. If the butter is cold, a microwave can help, but you do have to be careful. Put the butter on a plate, wrapped, then microwave it on half power for just 10 seconds. Turn the butter over and turn it 1/4 turn, then microwave another 10 seconds on half power. Check to see if it is less firm and ready to use. If not, half power for another 5 seconds should do the trick.

The most important tip is to get all of your ingredients out and prepped (mis en place)before you start any recipe or cooking project. This way you will find out before you start if you are out of an essential ingredient (so you can go buy it, borrow it, or find a substitution...or try another recipe!), and if you also make sure to lay out any tool, pot, pan, etc. called for you won't be flummoxed by not having that hand-held mixer or immersion blender when the recipe is half done. Imagine trying to make jelly, which needs hot, sterilized jars once cooked, if you forgot to check if you have jelly jars, and if they are clean and sterilized. I often run the dishwasher, with all the jelly jars in it, right before making jam or jelly. That way the jars are ready, hot, and clean right out of the dishwasher. 

Of course in order to do this prep work you will need to read the recipe all the way through...so read it again. When I read it the second time, I try to imagine myself actually making the recipe. Visualization works!

That's it for today. There will be more posts with tips coming later this month.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Happy Holidays!

Hope that you and yours have a most happy holiday season!   XO, Elle 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Gathering Again

The last few years have been unusual due to the pandemic. Last year we still had our daughter and her fiancé and his son here for Christmas but there was far less gathering than usual and no big Open House the day after Christmas as we had done prior to 2019.

This year isn't that different, but we won't have R with us this year, which is sad but understandable since we need to share, plus our gathering is smaller, with just some of the family and no neighbors or friends. This year not only is there COVID, but there is also the flu and a respiratory virus, so even our group is a bit large. Fortunately, the weather will be fairly mild (in the mid-60s), so we can be outside some of the time and/or have windows open.

The tree is up, plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, the cider with spices was in the slow cooker to stay warm. K arrived Wednesday  and yesterday we gathered!

It is hard for me to believe, but I have hardly baked anything for this Christmas. I did make fruitcake a while ago, and I have made a couple kinds of cookies, but that's about it. My youngest sister and her family brought a delicious chocolate cake, which everyone loved, so my baking wasn't even missed. 

The spread included chips and chutneys, meats and cheeses, hummus and crackers, veggies and dips and, the hit of the party, steamed shrimp and cocktail sauce. The photo above was taken when most had finished the savory part and the dessert part was still to come.

The best part was having family together and all of the varied conversations. Since we often socialize with Sweetie's side of the family separately from my side of the family, but didn't this time, it was an opportunity for local family from both sides to get to know each other better.

Sweetie is encouraging me to stay calm and enjoy life and what it brings instead of planning things to distraction and setting myself up for being in a tizzy by having too many things that I'm going to make. So far, so good. 

I'm sure there will be another post before Christmas, but right now I wish you a no-tizzy time yourself and hopefully lots of fun with family and/or friends to celebrate the solstice just past, Hanukkah still in progress, and the holidays still to come!

XO, Elle

Some tips for large gatherings:

Place the drinks in a separate place, away from the food. This avoids bottlenecks and allows for more mixing of guests. We put our drinks, and ice, into the bake center sink. The hit of the party was our spiced warm apple juice, a combination of apple juice (but you could use cider), big strips of orange peel, a few whole cloves, and a couple cinnamon sticks. We warm ours in a large crock pot, but you can also simmer it on the stove. Provide a ladle and hot cups. If you like there can also be a bottle of spirits (we like bourbon) next to the warm cider so that folks can add a dollop to their cider if they like.

Be sure to have openers for the bottles...cap openers for beer, wine openers for wine, etc..

Group chairs in different parts of your entertaining space if you can, so that there can be small group discussions.

If it's a pot luck, have some serving bowls and plates, cutting board and knives, serving spoons, etc. handy, plus some trivets to put under hot items.

Have a plan for where to put coats, purses, etc. We have hooks in our front hall so we cleared off all of our own coats and hats and put them upstairs, leaving the hooks free for our guests. If you have a bedroom on the same floor, hosts often suggest that the bed in that bedroom be the repository for coats.

Have plenty of ice, both to chill drinks and to put into drinks. 16 pounds was the right amount just to chill the beverages in our utility sink. If you have a full size sink or tub, you'll need more, plus more for putting into drinks. The ice for that can be put into a medium bowl or an ice bucket.

Although more disposables for the landfill is hard to take, for the once a year party we use paper plates and napkins, and disposable plastic forks, knives and spoons, plus plastic cold cups and paper hot cups. There is still plenty of clean-up needed after the party of serving trays and plates, etc., along with putting away what wasn't eaten.

Towards the end of the party check with those driving to see if they want coffee or tea and if they take decafe or regular. This is particularly important if you have been serving alcohol.

Have fun! Take photos if you like! Enjoy the gathering.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Babes Bake a Corny Yeasted Bread

 No, not corny because it's malarkey, but actually a loaf or braid with both corn flour and corn kernels. It's a fine bread to go with soup or stew or chowder, but also makes great toast.

This challenge is brought to us by Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories. It is a nice one because it goes together fairly quickly. You can either use sourdough starter if you have it, or do as I did and mix together equal amounts of flour and water to make the 1/2 cup starter. You won't get the lovely depth of flavor that you get with starter, but the recipe calls for so much instant yeast that your loaf...or braid...will rise just fine without the sourdough starter.

The challenge was to make a very large loaf, but I went with a braid instead because it's been a long time since I made one and because I felt like it. I'm sure that the loaf is a fine way to go, too. Do check out our other Bread Baking Babes to see their take on the challenge.

Want to make this bread? Consider posting about your bake and sending the URL and a photo with short description to Karen to be a Bread Baking Buddy and be included in the Buddy round-up. Just get it to her by Nov. 29th. More information is on her blog.

Yeasted Corn Bread


425 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon) lukewarm (80-90 degrees F) water

100 grams ( a little less than 1/2 cup) flour mixture ( 1/2 cup flour mixed with just slightly less water OR 1/2 cup sourdough starter)

400 grams (2 3/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) bread flour

175 grams (1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon) corn flour - I used Bob's Red Mill millet flour

175 grams (1 cup) corn kernels - I used frozen corn kernels, thawed

14 grams (2 3/4 teaspoons) fine sea salt

2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast - I used 2 packets


In a large container, such as 6-quart tub, add the water. Add the flour mixture or sourdough starter to the water and mix with your hand or a whisk. 

Add the bread flour, corn flour, corn kernels if using. Mix by hand until incorporated. (I mixed the flours together in a large bowl, then used a whisk for the first 1/2 cup or so, then my clean hand. The dough came together in a shaggy mass.

Sprinkle the salt (to one side) and the yeast (to the other side) over the top, cover, and let rest for 20 minutes. 

Mix with a wet hand, using your fingers to pinch the dough to incorporate the salt and yeast, and then stretch and fold a few times to fully incorporate salt and yeast. Finish with a stretch and fold. Let rest a couple of minutes and then stretch and fold a few more times. 

Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold again, cover and let rest for 30 more minutes. Do a final stretch and fold, cover, and let rise until it's 2 1/2 to 3 times it's original size but still domed and not flattened. If you're using a tub with level marks, it should reach the 2-quart mark. 

In the meantime, spray a loaf pan with spray oil or spray a baking sheet if you are doing a braid as I did. 

When it's ready, gently turn the dough out onto your work floured surface. 

If you are making a braid as I did, use a bench scraper to divide the dough into three pieces. Keep the surface floured as you work. Roll each of the pieces into a snake about 15-inches long. Move to the prepared pan, pinch the ends together and loosely braid, tucking ends under when braided. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, oiled side to loaf, and let rise about an hour until  puffy and almost doubled in size.

If you are making a loaf, gently flatten the dough into a rectangle to 2 to 3 times its original width and about as wide.  Fold the ends back over each other creating a rectangle double the width of the pan. Roll up the dough to form a tube about the same length as your pan. Place it in your pan seam side up." 

Brush the loaf with water. 

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, until slightly crested over the top of the pan (if using a 10 inch x 5 inch loaf pan). 

For either shape:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake. For the braid it will be for about 30-45 minutes, until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the back. For the loaf, bake for about 50 minutes, turning halfway through for even baking. 

Move or turn it out onto a wire rack and let cool at least an hour. It actually gets better if you wait a bit longer. 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Walnut Cranberry Tart for the Festive Season

Welcome December! We had lots of rain last night and this morning!! With the prolonged drought we have been in here in California, this is cause for celebration. Of course the coming holidays are also cause for joy...and lots of baking and making. Here is the first recipe I recommend to you, dear reader, for you holiday baking. It's a keeper. Do read through the full post before making it...there are tips for you.

I bought a bag of fresh cranberries sometime in early November. I do this almost every year because I know that before they get too old I'll come across a recipe or recipe idea where you need fresh cranberries...and there they will be in the bottom crisper drawer in the fridge.

That happened last week. There was no time to make the tart for Thanksgiving, but that weekend I had the time, so I made this delicious tart which combines walnuts, fresh cranberries, orange, and some brandy.

Instead of making a tart dough, I just used a refrigerated, rolled out pie dough circle. Once I fit it into my 9" tart base and pushed the dough up the sides, there was just enough to fold the rest of the dough down along the sides and push it into the sides...so I had double thick sides but a single thickness on the bottom. Of course a home made pie dough is delicious, so if you prefer to do that, the recipe is below the recipe for the tart.

Because I didn't have the size tart pan called for in the recipe (10-inch is called for but I had a 9-inch one), I knew that there would be extra filling. My solution was to let the fruit and nuts settle a bit after I mixed them into the filling, and then I poured out about a third of the filling into a spare bowl. I poured the rest into the tart shell and then topped it up with the filling in the spare bowl. It worked just fine, but I had leftover filling...without many bits of cranberry or nuts. My solution was to spray a pie dish with baking spray and then I added about a half cup of walnuts to the spare bowl and the filling still left in it. That mixture went into the prepared pie dish and it was baked at the same temperature...but for only about 15-20 minutes until the mixture was set. Sweetie had some after it cooled and he liked the mostly nuts version...without any crust!...better than the tart. I liked the tart better. I think that the cranberry added a freshness that the 'mainly nuts' filling didn't have. Still, if you would like to put in more walnuts and fewer cranberries (or none), feel free. I think you'll find that the orange-brandy-brown sugar filling works well with both.

Bakers tip: Zest the orange before you juice it.

Cranberry Walnut Tart

by Michele Anna Jordan, as published in the Nov. 23,2022 Press Democrat newspaper
Makes 6-8 servings

Pastry dough (recipe follows) (or do as I did and use ready made pie dough circles)

3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (I used 1/2 cup pure maple syrup and 1/2 cup dark brown Karo syrup)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh cranberries, minced
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

First, make the pastry dough and chill it according to the instructions in the recipe.  Then, on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. Carefully lift the dough and put it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it gentle at the inner edge and crimping it all around. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill. (Alternately, use a refrigerated pre-rolled pie dough round, folding the extra dough down the inside circumference and pressing gently into the indentations to make a double sided crust. Chill as described above.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until they are thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and agave nectar or maple syrup and stir well. Add the melted butter, vanilla, brandy, orange juice, orange zest, and salt. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts, pour the mixture into the tart shell and set on a baking sheet. Set the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is set, about 40 minutes. (Check at about 20 minutes and thereafter; if the top is getting too brown, tent loosely with foil.)

Remove from the oven and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting into wedges and serving.

Pastry Dough for Pies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 4 pieces , or 4 ounces of lard, chilled
3-4 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. With your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter or lard until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; work very quickly so that the mixture doesn't get too warm.

Make a well in the center and pour in 3 tablespoons of water. Use your fingers to mix the dough together quickly; add more water if needed for the dough to come together.

Press the dough into a ball, wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Star Bread

Sometimes you need a bread that is a showstopper, but isn't actually too difficult to make. This star-shaped braided bread seems to me to fit that description. Check out the recipe and see if you agree.

It's useful to have a working kitchen scale for this one, although I tend to use my scale for baking as much as possible. Baking is all about the proportions of one ingredient to each of the others, so weighing the ingredients is a sure way to keep the proportions solid. In this recipe it also makes it easy to keep the dough amounts for each of the five star points even so that you end up with a nice shape.

This dough is a classic Anadama Bread, which is a bread with cooked cornmeal, molasses, some whole wheat flour and some regular flour. It has lots of flavor and the dough is easy to work with, which is a must when you are making a shaped bread like this. Best of all, it's delicious! A bonus is that with this recipe you also get a loaf, so you can have the shaped bread for a special occasion and still have slices for toast. It makes great toast!

You start by cooking some cornmeal and water. If you use coarsely ground cornmeal or stone ground whole meal cornmeal, you'll want to cook it until the grains soften, so just keep stirring and be patient.

Never a good idea to add really hot cooked grains to a yeast mixture, so let the mixture cool down, but be sure to add in the butter first. I forgot to do that, so I had to warm up the mixture in the microwave a few seconds so that the butter would mix in well.

Take your time with the kneading, too. Any time that you are going to braid bread dough it helps to have plenty of gluten developed...which is the whole point of kneading as far as I know. This bread is an old New England favorite but in colonial times they had to do all the kneading by hand. We can use a stand mixer, if we desire, to do some of the work.

After the dough rises and it's time to shape it, use your scale and a bench scraper to divide the dough into six pieces that all weight within a couple of grams of each other. You can pinch off a bit from a heavy lump and add it to a light lump of dough if you need to adjust to even them out. Use the same process when you divide each lump into three pieces. The closer in weight that each piece is, the easier it will be to make a nicely shaped star.

When you are braiding the dough for each arm of the star, roll the dough pieces in a tapered long cone shape. You'll gather each pointed tip end of the cone together and braid towards the fatter end. That way the three fatter ends will create a great 'upper arm' for that point of the star. When all five are done, you place them so that those fat ends barely touch and each point is pointing out; it becomes a star shape. The final part is to roll the sixth piece of dough into a long snake, with the whole length the same thickness. Once that is formed in a spiral over the center, it ties all five arms together. Here is a photo of mine at that point. I shaped mine on a 12-inch pizza pan, which worked well. 

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the finished star, but it was a bit puffier and much browner but otherwise looked the same.

Anadama Bread and Star
Star shaping from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia
makes two loaves or one loaf and one big star

1/2 cup regular corn meal
2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup molasses
6 tablespoons butter, softened,
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 1 cup of the cold water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in the molasses and the butter.
Add the whole wheat flour and stir until all is combined. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer and cool to tepid. (Or transfer to a mixing bowl large enough to mix the dough by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.)

Add the 1 cup sourdough starter to the mixing bowl with the tepid cornmeal mixture. Mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment ( or a wooden spoon) for several seconds. With dough hook in place on the stand mixer add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (At this point I punched the dough down, recovered it, and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I let the dough warm up and then did the shaping.)

Lightly grease 1- 9 x 4 inch loaf pan. Line a sheet pan with silicon mat or parchment for the star. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape one piece loosely into a loaf and place in the prepared pan pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaf has doubled.

For star, take second half of dough (all the dough remaining) and divide it into six equal pieces (using a scale really helps with getting the pieces about the same size). Set one piece aside. Each of the other five pieces is used to make one of the star 'arms'.

Take one of the pieces and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each of those three pieces into a rope about 8 inches long, with a taper at one end. Join the three ropes at the tapered end and braid the ropes. Repeat with each of the next 4 pieces.

Place the braided pieces on the prepared baking sheet with the tapered end pointing out, to shape a five-point star. The ends at the middle should touch and so pinch them together.

Take the last piece of dough and roll into a long rope, about 20 inches long. Starting at the center of the star, wind the rope around in a spiral over the center of the star. Tuck the end under the spiral.

Cover the star with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise, until doubled in bulk. When almost to that point, preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, brush the star and the loaf with a wash of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Make sure that the wash goes into the crevices of the star. Slash the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. Bake loaves for 35 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Star may take a shorter baking time than the loaf. That's OK.

Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Serve warm if possible.

This bread is mellow and soft, barely sweet from the molasses and makes really good toast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Babes Bake Italian


It's the 16th and our wonderful Kitchen of the Month, Judy of Judy's Gross Eats has challenged us to bake a seasonal favorite, panettone, an Italian sweet bread that rises high and has dried fruit and candied peel in most variations.

My version is based on the recipe that Judy gave us, one where the panettone is baked in a 2-quart straight sided saucepan! It worked really well and if you do it this way you don't have to hang it upside down as it cools as often happens with the paper molds. I did line it with parchment paper to make it easy to release from the pot.

For the fruit I used dried golden raisins, candied orange peel, lemon peel, and citron. Those flavors complemented the orange oil and vanilla used in the dough. I soaked the fruit in warmed bourbon. That and the overnight starter combined to create a moist, delicious bread. I used the weights except for the candied fruits.

This is a rich dough, much like a brioche, and mine was silky in the middle, with a fairly soft crust as well. It's almost a cake, but truly a bread. Try it toasted...toasting really enhances the flavors and makes a nice textural contrast, too. If you can do butter, butter it after toasting for a decadent experience you won't soon forget.

I was baking this on a rainy day, so that might be why I needed at least a half cup additional flour. It does make a soft dough and if you allow plenty of rising time you can probably make a very slack dough, but I didn't have that kind of time. Our faithful companion, an elderly black lab named Pi, requires quite a bit of time and care right now as he recovers from a bad case of vertigo that left him unable to stand or walk for over a week. Now he is walking all over our property, but still has some trouble walking for long in a straight line; it's more like a sailboat tacking. Each day he improves so we are hopeful that soon he will be going in the car with us and taking his walk in his favorite park. Last night he even stood up on his own for the first time in three weeks...a big milestone.

In the unlikely event that you have leftovers, this bread also makes a fine component of either French Toast or Bread Pudding.

Do visit our other Bread Baking Babes to see their versions.

Want to make this bread? Consider posting about your bake and sending the URL and a photo with short description to Judy to be a Bread Baking Buddy and be included in the Buddy round-up. Just get it to her by Nov. 29th. More information is on her blog. You can also post on our Facebook page. for 'extra credit'.

Overnight Panettone

This traditional Italian holiday bread will stay fresh longer when it's made with an overnight starter.

Prep: 20 mins

Bake: 45 mins

Total: 13 hrs 20 mins

Yield: 1 large loaf


Bake in 2 quart sauce pan



  • 3/4 cup (90g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon (just a pinch) instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (74g) cool water


  • all of the starter (above)
  • 2 1/4 cups (270g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (57g) lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) butter, softened
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon orange oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons fast acting instant yeast or 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (8g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (85g) golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup (64g) slivered dried apricots (left these out)
  • 1/2 cup (85g) dried cranberries (left these out)
  • 1/2 cup (71g) chopped dried pineapple (I used 1/4 cup each candied orange rind, lemon rind, and citron)
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) orange zest (grated rind) or lemon zest (grated rind)


1.      To make the starter: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, cover, and allow them to rest overnight (8 to 12 hours).

2.      To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients except the fruit and zest, and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until you've made a soft, smooth dough.

3.      Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it's puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

4.      Gently deflate the dough, and knead in the fruits and zest. (Soak fruits in hot/boiling water (or bourbon as I did) to soften. Drain before adding them)

5.      Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a panettone pan or other straight-sided, tall 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan. Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it's just crested over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.  (Helpful to line the pan.)

6.      Bake the bread in a preheated 400°F oven for 10 minutes; reduce the oven heat to 375°F and bake an additional 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil if the crust appears to be browning too quickly. Panettone should be a deep brown when done, should sound hollow when tapped, and will read 190°F at the center using a digital thermometer. (It's easy to under-bake, since it browns so quickly!)

7.      Remove the panettone from the oven and cool completely. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.