Friday, March 30, 2012

Eggs for the Easter Basket

I'm putting together a family recipe book and one of the recipes I've included is how to hard boil and color eggs for the Easter basket.

My Dad was a kid at heart and loved holidays like Easter and Christmas. He was a religious man, too, so we went to church before having the fun of hunting for Easter eggs or opening Christmas presents but I like to think that his ability to embrace the things a child loves was partly due to his faith which stressed love as well as duty.I think he loved marshmallow chicks just as much as any of his children!

 This recipe is an easy one to do if you have food colors in your pantry. I used the liquid food colors, so I'm not sure if gel or paste or powdered ones would work for this recipe. I like the fact that you are using traditional food dyes that have been used for a long time rather than some fizzy tablets with who-knows-what chemicals in them. You can also boil onion skins and/or red onion skins, strain the liquid and add that to some vinegar for an even more natural dye.

Dad's Easter Eggs Bring to a boil in cold water as many dozens of eggs as you wish to color.

Once water has come to a boil, simmer for ten minutes. Turn off heat and cool, or turn into a colander and run cold water over until eggs are cool. (Dad used to add a little Borax -- ½ t. probably -- to the water before boiling. It takes some coating off the eggs for better coloring.)

Bring a tea kettle full of water to a boil. Set out one custard cup for each dye color. Place 1 T. cider vinegar into each custard cup. Add 3-4 drops food color to a cup for each color. Fill custard cups half way up with boiling water, and dye eggs. Spoon can be used to lift eggs out of dye bath. We used to write and draw on dry eggs with crayons or plain wax right before we put them into the dye bath.

Store in refrigerator in the cartons the eggs came in. Figure out how to use so-o-o-o many hard boiled eggs!

MOM’S NOTES: Dad loved to do the Easter eggs, just as he loved to prepare for Christmas. Sometimes he would use the fizzy tablets instead of food colors. Even when the children grew up, he would make colored hard boiled eggs with names on them for those who would be visiting at Easter.

If you prefer to have scrambled eggs and egg shells to dye, you can pierce a hole at either end of fresh eggs, blow the contents into a bowl, run some water through the empty shells to rinse them, then dye them in the dye bath like the eggs below. The eggs in the bowl can be turned into fine scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dirty Blondes

A good cookie recipe can often be tweaked to yield a different but equally delicious one. So far I've taken Big Blondes (the cookie), changed a few things to get Dumpy Blondes, and now changed some other things to get Dirty Blondes.

I keep thinking that if I figure out a few more variations I can sell them and sketch some blondes to go on the labels...a busty blond for the first, a hefty short blond for the second and maybe a sexy blond with bleached hair and dark roots for this one. Even without compelling labels these should sell...they are packed with all sorts of mix-ins and can become addictive if you're not careful.

These are named Dirty Blondes because of the addition of espresso powder which give them dark flecks here and there, plus a lovely coffee flavor that goes so well with the two kinds of chocolate.

These mix together in a large bowl with a wooden mixer needed. You do have to dirty a pot melting the butter and brown sugar together but otherwise its and easy clean up recipe. Since these are on the nutty and super sweet side be sure to make the full batch if there will be kids around when they come out of the oven!

Since I made these last night and only Sweetie and I were around I still have almost the whole recipe's worth in the fridge. Now I get to find out if they freeze well.

In case you've been keeping up with the seedling project, today was a big day. Four types of tomatoes made the jump from tiny cell packs to much larger peat pots so now they will be able to grow a big root system as we wait for warmer nights and soil. I also transplanted some rainbow chard seedlings to peat pots.

Tomorrow I hope to transplant golden chard seedlings and two or three more varieties of tomato to the larger peat pots. The sunspace is getting filled with dozens and dozens of plants. I'm hoping that by this time next week we will start getting warmer weather so that I can put them out during the day to harden off.

The zucchini seedlings have gotten so big that I may have to plant them out even if the weather is still cool. They are hardier than the tomatoes so it will be OK.

Dirty Blondes
A variation of a recipe by Jill O’Connor in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups mixed nuts – I used 1/2 cup of pecans plus two cups of a mixture that included salted peanuts, and walnut pieces
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and sugars together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugars are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt. Slowly whisk the cooled butter and sugar mixture into the eggs just until combined. Whisk in the flour and baking powder to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the nuts, coconut, espresso powder, and white and dark chocolate chips into the cooled batter. (I mixed all of the "mix-in" ingredients together in a very large measuring cup before adding to the batter. That way I knew that there wouldn’t be a clump of nuts here and a clump of white chocolate there, but rather a nice mix of all the goodies.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15 large or 30 small bars.

Third Spring Bread

Wouldn't you love to wake up to a pan of these? Warm soft hot cross buns, dotted inside with rum-soaked currants, fragrant with lemon zest and yeast, with a sweet cross of icing on top. Heavenly!

This is the third recipe that I made for my friends on our Baking Day, so it started with thawed frozen bread dough, too. I kneaded in the lemon zest which turned out to be harder than I thought it would. Freshly grated lemon zest has lemon oil and the lemon oil kept the dough sort of in layers as I kneaded it. Again it just takes patience and persistence and remembering to let the dough sit for five minutes if it becomes too hard to handle. Once the zest is kneaded in the dough is more willing to have you knead in the rum-soaked (but drained) currants. After that it's just a matter of dividing the dough and shaping the pieces into buns. Once the buns have proofed in the buttered pan they bake up as pretty as any dough you would have made yourself from scratch.

By the way, any of these recipes can be made with a dough you make yourself from scratch. Although the frozen bread dough is pretty plain, you could make a dough that is sweeter, richer from extra butter, milk, and/or eggs, or made with other flours than white. I'm not sure how to do a gluten free yeasted bread successfully, but I'm sure someone has figured it out, so that's a possibility, too.

The thing that ties these three breads together is the 'spring' theme and the idea of shaping the dough in nice ways. The frozen bread dough makes it easy, too, if you are not too sure of your skills in making yeast doughs, plus it speeds up the dough to table process a bit.

I would love to know if you tried any of these recipes and how it worked for you. I'm going to go back to making dough from scratch, but it's nice to know that I can turn out a stunning bread in quick time if I have frozen bread dough on hand.

Hot Cross Buns

Thaw frozen bread dough, flatten on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle on finely shredded zest of one medium orange or one large lemon, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Roll up and knead. Flatten again and sprinkle on 1/4 cup currants which have been soaked in 1/4 cup rum. (Discard rum and drain currants before adding to dough). Roll up dough and knead fruit in.

Divide dough into pieces of equal weight. With floured hands, shape into 8 smooth rounds. Evenly space rounds in a buttered 8- or 9-in. square or round pan.

Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled and puffy, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°. Brush buns with beaten egg. Bake until deep golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool in pan at least 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together until smooth 1 teaspoon lemon and enough powdered sugar to make a pipe able icing. Spoon into a small, heavy-gauge plastic bag, snip a hole in a corner, and squeeze icing onto cooled buns to form large Xs.

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Spring Bread

When my friends and I met and I showed them what they could do with thawed frozen bread dough, the most popular bread was a beautiful Almond Raspberry braid with almond paste and raspberry jam filling and a topping of sliced almonds and sparkling sugar. It looks complicated, but is actually pretty easy. The most difficult part was spreading out the bread dough. I guess when they make frozen bread dough they make a dough that isn't very elastic so that it retains the loaf shape its frozen in.

The key to spreading the dough out far enough to be able to do this kind of braid is to be patient. You can roll it or just use your hands to spread it out on a lightly floured board, then let it sit five minutes and spread it a bit further, then again after another five or ten minutes. Be persistent and you will succeed!

I made this braid in advance of our Bread Baking day and then again on the day. For the first trial run I cut the dough with a pizza cutter. On the second baking day I used a sharp knife. Each worked about as well as the other, so choose the cutter that works for you.

Here are some photos showing the dough spread out and layered with almond paste and jam, then cut, then braided, and then how it looked baked. Isn't it beautiful?

Rolling the almond paste out on a board dusted with confectioners sugar seems to work really well. You want the almond paste to be thin enough that when you are eating the pastry that the filling doesn't ooze out too much. I like using seedless jam but seeded jam will work, too. If you prefer another flavor over raspberry, by all means use apricot, strawberry, blueberry or any other favorite jam. Just make sure that it isn't too watery (for the same reason that you want the thin almond paste layer).

This gorgeous pastry looks like you spent hours and hours in the kitchen but in fact it is quick for a yeast dough treat. One of my friends tried it within a few days of seeing me make it and she was thrilled with her braid...and her family ate it up very, very quickly! This is a great recipe to make for Easter or a fancy brunch. Just be ready for rave reviews.

Raspberry Almond Braid

Thaw 1 lb. frozen bread dough, flatten it on a lightly flour board. Working gently, stretch dough to 10 x 12" rectangle.

Take a package of almond paste and divide it in half. Reserve half for another use. Roll one half into a rectangle 11 inches long by 3 inches wide on a board sprinkled with powdered sugar. Take this rectangle and place in the center of the dough rectangle.

Spread 3-4 tablespoons raspberry jam over the almond paste rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, make diagonal slices along the two long sized of the rectangle, cutting almost to the almond paste. The cuts should be about an inch apart.

Fold up the ends about an inch over the almond paste and jam. Then take each of the dough pieces, first from one side, then from the other, and stretch them across the filling. Continue to braid the dough up to the end, then tuck ends under.

Place on parchment or silicone mat lined pan, cover with oiled plastic wrap and a tea towel and let sit until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Brush top of braid with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water) and sprinkle with sliced almonds and sparkling sugar. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown, about 30-45 minutes. Let cool. If desired drizzle with a glaze of orange juice mixed with confectioners sugar. Slice with serrated knife to serve.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Springtime Breads

There are few things more satisfying than sharing a skill or talent with people you really like. It's also true that teaching someone so they can acquire the skill and exercise their own talent is better than just doing your thing for them.

Last week I had the fun of sharing my baking skills with some women friends and showing them how to make some springtime breads.

Because for yeast breads it is sometimes easier to start with the dough already made, I showed them how to work a little magic on plain, ordinary frozen bread dough from the supermarket. I used Bridgeford brand and so I had three one-pound parcels of dough. I thawed them out overnight which worked very well.

The first recipe was perfect for Easter morning (if you make it the night before as I did) because you end up with totally cute nests surrounding a colored egg which cooks while the bread bakes. This time the egg was barely hard boiled. The last time I made thee the eggs were soft boiled on the way to hard boiled, so there was some runny yolk but no runny whites. It all depends on how long you bake the bread. This time I used plain white bread dough and then sprinkled sesame seeds on the nests before baking. That worked better than the sweet dough I used in THIS post in the spring of 2009 in the Bread Baker's Dog blog.

1) Egg nests: When I made this a few years ago the eggs came out of the oven soft boiled and you should remove the dyed egg from the nest within the first 10 minutes after you serve them because otherwise the shell tends to stick to the dough a bit.

I dyed the uncooked eggs the day before, created the nests, then put it all in the fridge overnight, baking them in the morning. Use the illustrations from THIS post if you want to see how to put them together.

Egg Nests

1 pound thawed frozen bread dough
8 eggs in the shell, uncooked, dyed or plain
1 egg, mixed with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash
sesame seeds, or finely chopped nuts

Divide dough into 15 equal portions, about 1 oz each. Set three (3) portions aside. Cover half of the remaining twelve(12) portions with plastic wrap (six portions), but leave on the counter. You can unwrap them when you've made the first 3 nests from the six (6) portions you will now work with.

Take a portion. Roll it into a rope about 12 inches long. Repeat with another portion. Twist the ropes together. I find that if you start in the middle, twist one side to the end, then twist the other side to the end, it works very well.

Form the twisted rope into an oval and trim off any excess and make a continuous twist rope oval.

Take one of the three portions that were set aside and divide it into 2. Take one of those pieces and form an oval…you can add any dough you trimmed off, too. Place the oval on a Silpat mat, parchment lined baking sheet, or greased baking sheet. Place one of the uncooked eggs in the middle.

Put the rope oval in the palm of your hand, turn it over and lightly pat it with a wet hand.I also patted the inside rim of the rope.

Set the rope oval over the egg and let the wet dough seal with the flat oval already on the pan.

Repeat with the rest of the dough. You should finish with 6 nests.

NOTE: I used uncooked eggs and dyed them in a water bath that had been made from about 6 drops food coloring, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and boiling water. The eggs should be close to room temperature so they don’t get shocked and break when put in boiling water. The eggs dye very quickly and can be removed to a paper towel lined glass baking pan or pie pan to drain and dry. They are in the dye bath only about 5 – 10 seconds. I dyed them right before I rolled out the ropes and then refrigerated the pans of rolls overnight.The photos are from right after I shaped them. I added the seeds the next morning before baking, but forgot to take any photos! They sat out for about 1/2 hour before I baked them. If the house or kitchen were very warm, you could probably pre-heat the oven and bake them about 15 minutes after removing from the fridge.

If shaping and baking on the same day, cover nests and let rise in a warm, draft-free place 30 – 45 minutes if baking right away, or until nearly doubled.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Brush the dough, but not the eggs, with egg wash; sprinkle dough with sesame seeds, or finely chopped nuts. (The sweet dough and coconut from an earlier version didn't go well with the soft boiled eggs, but savory would so I made savory with sesame seeds.)

Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and let cool on racks about 5 minutes then serve while hot.

I'm submitting this to fellow Bread Baking Babe Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog since she is the hostess of the current Bread Baking Day with the theme of bread with eggs - it's #48. You can send her an entry too and I bet you will find a different way to combine eggs and bread dough...maybe with eggs IN the dough? Go to her post HERE to learn all about it.

I'm also sending this over to fellow Bread Baking Babe Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event. If you ever bake with yeast, do visit Yeastspotting for lots of yummy bread inspiration.

Next post will continue the talent sharing baking...with a Raspberry Almond Braid. It's fun, it's easy and one of my friends saw me make it and made one herself that was a big hit with her family. You could do that too. Coming soon.....


I promised you more posts using the lovely serving pieces from but have been so busy that I really haven't cooked or baked anything that would work. Instead I'm going to put some Easter treats into them and post the photos so that you can see how nice they are. I suspect you will find inspiration for your own springtime offerings.

Not only is this cup elegant due to the proportions but they also have picks. This one has a pearl look at the top and would look elegant with something other than Easter candy.

This bowl is three inches across and an inch high and has that nice speckled effect on the outside.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Northern Rye Bread from the Babes

The fragrance was irresistible! I know that you are supposed to let bread rest and cool before slicing it but this time we could barely wait for the bread to finish baking.

The braw Bread Baking Babes of March baked a lovely Swedish Rye bread as we gathered around the kitchen table of our hostess of the month, the lovely Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog. Sweetie can attest that she chose a wonderful recipe for Swedish Rye Bread adapted from the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. Tassajara Bread Book. It is described in the Tassajara Bread Book as "sweet-smelling and scented, a light bread suitable for sandwiches." This one is a keeper.

The bread that came out of the oven was moist and light and thrilled the taste buds with the flavors of orange, rye and caraway. (I left out the anise seed since it is not a flavor I enjoy.) There was a wonderful crust and just the right amount of chewiness. At Astrid's recommendation I baked it in a bread pan. I've never been a huge fan of rye bread but this may be the rye bread that changes that. It's wonderful!

I used a dark rye flour and expected a strong rye flavor, but it was just right, a sort of medium rye flavor. We had those first slices topped with some butter. I look forward to enjoying the rest of the loaf with some cheese, as toast, and maybe with pastrami because it goes so well with rye.

I know you are going to want to be a Buddy this month and bake this great and easy rye bread. Instead of using a mixer we get to play with wooden spoons and our hands. To be a Bread Baking Buddy just go over to Astrid's post for the recipe (including great step by step photos), bake it, take at least one photo to share with her via e-mail and tell her about your experience baking this great rye bread. She even has a fill-in form on her blog to make it super easy.

Do check out the beautiful loaves baked by many of the Babes this month. The links are to the right.

Other than not adding the anise seed and only making half the recipe, I followed the recipe as written. That may be why it turned out so well! Since the recipe is over at Astrid's I won't post it here.

Last but not least in any way, I'm sending this to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event. A treasure trove of great bread recipes awaits you when you visit and there just might be some variations on the Swedish Rye Friday probably.

XO Elle

Swedish Rye Bread

adapted from Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast (2 packets)
1/3 cups honey
1 cup dry milk
grated peel of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons anise seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 cups unbleached white flour

4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup oil
4 cups rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (for kneading)


1. Dissolve the yeast in water. Add the honey and dry milk plus the oranges and seeds

2. Add the flour to get a thick batter.

Add one cup of flour at a time, stirring good after each addition. The more flour you add the more you knead to go into a beating mode with your spoon. Best way is to stir up and down in a circular mode from the bottom of the bowl to the surface of the dough. Don't forget to scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time. After the 4 cups of flour you should have a thick mud-like dough.

3. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).

Continue to beat until you have a smooth dough. Again pull your spoon under the dough and bring it up to the surface again in a circular mode. The batter will be more elastic while you are doing this as more and more air gets incorporated.

4. Let rise for 45 minutes.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place.

5. Folding in the remaining ingredients. Do not stir! Do not cut through the dough, this will improve the elasticity and strength of the dough.

6. Sprinkle on the salt and pour on the oil. Stir around the side of the bowl working carefully your way towards the center. Rotate your bowl a little with every stroke you do. Repeat until all of the salt and oil is incorporated.

7. Sprinkle the flour 1/2 a cup at a time onto the dough. Again fold it in while rotating your bowl.

8. Continue until the dough comes away from the sides of your bowl. Now the dough is ready to give it a good knead!

9. Plop your dough on your kneading board and scrap all remainings from the bowl onto the dough. Keep in mind that your surface should be floured enough to prevent the dough from sticking to much on the board.

10. Flour your hands and the top of the dough. From the middle of your down stretch it away from you and then fold it back onto the remaining part of the dough. Continue to push down and forward.

11. Turn the dough a quarter turn. Again continue with the pushing and folding.

12. Turn, fold, push. Rock forward. Twist and fold as you rock back. Be careful not to stretch the dough too much and tear it. Add flour to the boards as needed.

13. While you continue with the kneading the dough will become more and more elastic, smooth and shiny.

14. When you are finished, place the dough in your lightly oiled bowl smooth side down, then turn it over so the dough ball is covered lightly with oil. This will prevent the dough from forming a crust on the top while rising.

15. Cover the bowl with a damp towel again and set aside to rise in a warm place. (50.60 minutes until doubled in size)

16. Punch down your dough with your fists steadily and firmly about 15-20 times.

17. Let rise again 40-50 minutes until doubled in size again.

18. Preheat your oven at 350°F.

19. Turn your dough onto the board again.

20. Form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough into two even pieces and form smaller balls again. Let rest for 5 minutes.

21. Knead the dough and fold it about 5 times, this gives the dough added spring. After the final push turn the dough a quarter turn.

22. Roll up the dough into a log shape. Seam at the bottom, flatten the top of the dough. Square the sides and ends. Turn the dough over and pinch the seams all the way.

23. Put the dough seam side down into your pan. Press it down into the pan with your fingers.

24. Cover and let rise again. This will take 20-25 minutes.

25. Cut the top with 1/2 inch deep slits to allow the steam to escape.

26. You and brush with eggwash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame if you want!

27. Bake for about 50-60 minutes.

28. Remove from pan to cool down completely.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tea Time Rhubarb Cream Scones

It's been quit a while since I've made scones. In the meantime Sweetie has eaten scones at bakeries and restaurants and made much of them. They were fine but truly not as good as the ones I make. One thing that was usually true of those other scones was that they were heavy, dense and/or cake like. My ideal scone is more like a biscuit in texture but lighter while still being rich due to the use of both heavy cream and butter.

Thanks to the generosity of some friends this past week I was the recipient of a couple stalks of fresh gorgeous rhubarb. Rhubarb is one of the harbingers of spring and it's fresh tangy flavor is a tonic to the winter weary spirits, just like Meyer lemon. Usually I make a strawberry-rhubarb pie when I have rhubarb but this time I decided to find out how well rhubarb goes with cream scones by adding chopped rhubarb and pecans to the basic recipe.

One of the tricks to making light, moist and delicious scones is to barely handle the dough once the liquid ingredients have been added to the dry mixture. I used a fork to mix and had the dough about 3/4 combined when I sprinkled on the rhubarb and nuts. That way they were folded in during the last few strokes of mixing. Once the dough was turned out onto the floured board, I barely kneaded it...just enough to work in the last crumbly bits. To shape it I was again careful to use a light touch and the least amount of handling possible.

The result was a nice tray of light and delicate scones that almost melted in your mouth. The rhubarb's sharpness was the perfect contrast to the sweet richness of the dough. Because the scones already had butter and heavy cream in them, no additional butter or clotted cream was necessary. If I'd had some lemon curd I might have added a smidgen but they didn't really need anything extra to be the perfect companion to a nice hot cup of afternoon tea. Cheers!

Rhubarb Oat Cream Scones
makes 12

1 large egg
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/3 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Stir the egg and cream together. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, cake flour, oat flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is from pea-size pieces to pieces the size of oatmeal flakes.

Pour the egg and cream over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Gently fold in the rhubarb and pecans. Don't overdo it. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand a few turns (or knead briefly when you turn it out on the floured board).

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place it on the baking sheet. (at this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don't defrost before baking - just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake the scones for 20 -22 minutes, or until their tops are golden. Tops may also be slightly cracked...that's OK.

Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Simple Stir Fry on Beautiful Bamboo

Some days a little forethought means that dinner will be easy. On Saturday I had time in the late afternoon to cut up the veggies for a nice stir fry and we actually had the right kind of ingredients in the fridge. Mushroom slices and chopped yellow onion make a great base. Slender slices of red pepper and carrot go well with chopped celery and florets of broccoli. Sweetie likes to steam them for a couple of minutes in the microwave before adding them to the stir-fry itself.

I like brown rice so I started some about an hour before dinner time. Sweetie likes small pieces of pork chop with this mixture of veggies. I found some Soy Vay sesame seed laced teriyaki sauce to add at the end for seasoning. It really was easy and tasty, too.

Before my bouts with cold, flu and hay fever I received a lovely box from Sarah Bentley at which contained earth friendly serving pieces to try. My creativity seems to have deserted me along with my health so I've not found too many things to serve in the cute server ware. There is a darling tiny fry pan and a variety of small skewers which are much nicer than toothpicks. One small bowl is made from bamboo and so is a small plate and the other two are recycled plastic and there are two cups as well and a couple of silver toned spoons. I know that I'll be posting dishes soon that make use of some of these and I appreciate the opportunity to try them.

I served the stir fry on the largest piece, a molded bamboo leaf squared off plate. It is really beautiful with natural bamboo marking and golden color and a nice touch of dark brown on the reverse. It is very lightweight and sturdy and feels nice in the hand. I think it is supposed to be single use but I washed it gently so that I can use it again for another dish...and post. If this sounds like something you might like, do check out their web site at plastic plates or If you are going to have a party, or love appetizers presented beautifully on biodegradable tableware, you will love the variety and elegance of their selections.

Pork Stir Fry

1 recipe steamed rice
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
4 oz boneless pork chops, cut into bit sized pieces
garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 -1 red bell pepper, cored, seeds discarded and cut in thin slices
2 medium carrots, cleaned and cut into matchsticks
1 small head broccoli, divided into florets
1 stalk celery, chopped or sliced
2-3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce or soy sauce

In a large non-stick skillet or wok sauté the mushrooms and onion until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet or wok and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet or wok with a paper towel. Add the rest of the oil and heat it. Season the pork pieces with garlic salt and pepper if desired. Stir-fry the pork until edges are golden brown.

While pork is cooking, steam the bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and celery in the microwave for 2 minutes at 70% power. Drain.

Add the steamed veggies to the pork when it is cooked. Add 2 -3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce (optional) or soy sauce. Toss with pork and vegetables and cook 1 minute.

Serve the stir-fry over a bed of the steamed rice. Serve at once.

Serves 4

Friday, March 02, 2012

Pizza Inspiration

Inspiration comes from lots of places. I like to see what is going on in Kitchen Stadium on the Food Channel, what other food bloggers are up to, I read lots of cookbooks and sometimes magazines like Bon Appétit that focus on food.

This month's issue had a gorgeous pizza on the cover and a suggestion inside that a pizza party is fun to have, with enough dough for everyone to top their pizza their way.

Since I'm just starting to feel like I'm not breathing underwater, the energy required to host a party is way beyond me, but I did like the idea of freshly baked pizza with my own toppings. The dough recipe in the mag was for no-knead dough but I really like the sourdough pizza dough I've made in the past and I did have some toss-off from feeding my sourdough starter. I fed it, allowed it to sit out for a few hours, then covered it and let it sit overnight.

Yesterday I turned it into pizza dough. Because I had the time I let it rise once, punched it down and let it rise again. I also used bread flour in the dough instead of all-purpose flour. The result was a dough with good gluten strands

and one that baked up crisp where the dough was thin and chewy where it was thicker, just the way I like it. It didn't flop like it sometimes has in the past but was nice and firm so I could pick up a piece and eat it out of hand.

For toppings I made two veggie and two with pepperoni and mushrooms.

The veggie one had plain Greek yogurt, shredded mozzarella cheese, asparagus coated with olive oil and a little garlic salt, and baby spinach which had been pre-wilted to release some of the excess moisture. Fresh chopped Italian parsley and some fresh thyme leaves added just enough herbal zing. Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top was the perfect finishing touch.

For the meat ones I started with a very small amount of pasta sauce, some of the Greek yogurt, the same herbs, very thin slices of pepperoni and thinly sliced mushrooms. Parmesan on top here, too. For the second meat one I also added some shredded mozzarella over the pasta sauce and I liked that additional melty cheese a lot.

These were excellent pizzas even if, because each was baked separately on the baking stone, I was up and down a lot while they baked. I liked the veggie ones the best but Sweetie liked the meat ones best. If you make these you can top them with whatever toppings you enjoy, just be sure to go lightly on the toppings if you want your pizza to have a good crust. Too many toppings overwhelms the best dough. If you don't have sourdough starter, there are lots of good pizza dough recipes online.

Homemade Pizza

Sourdough Pizza Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup barely warm water
1 cup sourdough starter

½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 ½ cups bread flour
Make a slurry of the flour and water. Mix the sourdough starter with the slurry and whisk to combine thoroughly. Let this mixture sit at room temperature for two hours. If you will be making the rest of the dough another day, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate this starter mix.

When you are ready to make the dough and make pizza, put the starter mix into a stand mixer bowl and stir the sugar, olive oil and salt into the starter mix.

Using the dough hook, gradually add the flour until a dough forms. Knead with the mixer for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour a tablespoon at a time as needed.

(If not using a stand mixer, put two cups of the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the mixture of starter, sugar, olive oil and salt that you’ve whisked together in another bowl. Stir to mix the wet mix into the flour until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a smooth and elastic dough which can still be a little sticky.)

Once dough is smooth and elastic, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute, adding flour if necessary to fully blend the dough.

Form dough into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl or other container good for dough to rise in. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

When it is about 45 minutes before you plan to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and if you have one place a baking stone in the oven to preheat, too.
On a lightly floured surface place one quarter of the dough. Using floured hands, stretch the dough into a rough circle, keeping a rim of thicker dough around the edges. Some people like to toss the dough to do this, but mine always ends up on the floor if I do, so I just push the dough or hold it by the edge and work my way around.

Sometimes I let the stretched dough sit for a couple of minutes, then stretch it some more. Place the stretched dough (about 9-10 inches in diameter) on a piece of baking parchment.

My Toppings:
1/4 - 1/2 cup pasta sauce - if too watery boil until thickened
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella
1 oz thinly sliced pepperoni
1 oz thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or use oregano)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 stalks fresh asparagus - washed, dried, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
sprinkle garlic salt or salt
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, steamed for 1 minute, then drained

Top the dough as desired, leaving the outer rim untopped except for when sprinkling the final Parmesan cheese. I used a tomato based sauce that included canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, basil, oregano and garlic, all cooked together over low heat for an hour until most of the liquid had evaporated. The topping over the sauce for the meat version was dollops of plain Greek yogurt, thinly sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, chopped fresh Italian parsley and fresh thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese.

For the veggie version plain Greek yogurt was thinly spread over the dough and a few dollops of thicker yogurt added here and there. Shredded mozzarella cheese was sprinkled over that. Previously I had washed, dried and thinly sliced on an angle about 1 cup of fresh asparagus spears. I put these in a bag and doused them with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkled on a bit of garlic salt, then shook the bag to coat the asparagus pieces with oil and seasoning. This allows them to stay moist in the high heat needed to cook the dough. The asparagus were distributed evenly over the mozzarella, some lightly steamed baby spinach leaves were added, then a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian parsley and fresh thyme leaves (just like the meat pizzas) was added. A final snow of grated Parmesan cheese left them ready for the oven.

Baking notes: The high heat and baking stone really combine to make a nice crust. I left each pizza on its piece of parchment and slid it onto the baking stone with a pizza peel. After 5 minutes I used the parchment to turn the pizza 180 degrees and baked it for 4 minutes more. I baked one of the veggie ones first, then kept it warm in my toaster oven while I baked the meat one. We dined on those two while the other two were baking.

If no stone is available, turn a jelly roll pan upside down on an oven rack in the preheated oven and immediately slide on the parchment paper holding the pizza.

Bake pizzas until golden brown. Your timing may be different as ovens differ. Remove from oven to cutting board, cut and serve. If you are making more than one pizza (recipe makes 4 crusts) prepare it on another piece of parchment and once you remove one pizza, put the next one in the oven.