Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy to see 2015 coming to an end. It has certainly not been my favorite year, mostly due to health reasons, but also because of the drought (which seems to be abating). I looked through my posts to see what I had cooked and baked and I found one recipe, almost in the middle of the 2015 posts, which I think was my favorite for the year.

But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that there are a couple of recipes that I've made over and over during the year, with cole slaw using my favorite creamy cole slaw dressing being the leader. I posted it on January 1, 2008 and have been making it often ever since. There is something about finely chopped green cabbage and a creamy sweet-tart dressing that just go together. Strangely enough, I don't have a good photo for this, even though I made it tonight for dinner. Maybe I'll get a decent photo tomorrow when there is natural light, then I can update this post with a good photo.

Here it is.

I've also repeatedly made the Amazing Overnight Waffles

and Anzac cookies.

Both are easy and so delicious that I get requests for more. If you use the Anzac link, don't be fooled by the pink cake you see first. The Anzac recipe is just further down the post.

The newest repeat recipe is for a roasted mixture of yams and delicata squash with a sweet and spicy glaze.

Sweetie raves about that recipe and it's perfect for the fall and winter when winter squash are plentiful and wonderful. This was posted for the first time in October of this year, so it, unlike those above is a current recipe.

So my favorite recipe? It's a King Arthur Flour recipe for a French fruit tart. I made it in July.

Tender buttery almond crust, almond meal-rich filling and fresh raspberries and blackberries made it a hit and, although it looked impressive and tasted divine, it was fairly easy to make. Besides, it was fun to use the rectangular tart pan! I love the balance between the crust, filling and fruit that this recipe achieves. as well as the fact that it makes a stunning presentation.

So there we have it, my favorite recipes from 2015. Did you have a favorite I didn't include? Want to share?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 With The Bread Baking Babes

I usually do a recap that covers various areas of cooking and baking on the blog throughout the year, but I'm going to focus on the breads baked by the intrepid Bread Baking Babes because, as I  reviewed the recipes baked, I noticed that we had spent almost the entire year baking breads from a wide swath of the globe.

From India we had Chapatis in January,

our February anniversary recipe was the French Kougin Amman.

I was thrilled to see that it was a featured recipe on the Great British Bake Off and that they didn't have much more success than I did. Small of me I know, but they were delicious even if far from perfect in my rendition, so that's OK.

A self-styled Global Baker gave us the recipe for Muesli Rolls

and we had Italian Ciabatta bread, enhanced with seeds and prunes.

I missed the August bread, but it was Italian, too.

We had both Romanian Easter Bread in the spring

and Russian Chrysanthemum Bread in November.

We baked Mexican Conchas

and Japanese Milk Bread. I baked the latter as rolls and they are now my go-to recipe for the perfect dinner roll.

For some American recipes we had Power Bread

and, from New England, Anadama Bread.

For the bread with, perhaps, the most variations we had Granary Loaf from England.

It really was and around the world trip while baking with the Babes this year and that is certainly part of the fun. Who knows what we will bake next year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Fire Is Going....

It's still pretty chilly, but it feels like winter, which I love. With the tree up, a plate of cookies from friends, a bowl of mandarin oranges for snacking and a comfy chair pulled up near the gas fire, the long winter evening is a pleasure to enjoy. Want a cookie anyone? Some egg nog?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Comfort Chicken

If you combine chilly weather with a desire to have a made-ahead and read-to-heat meal that is also comfort food, you would probably end up with this recipe, too. This Chicken Stew with Biscuit Toppers is a made-from-scratch one dish wonder. Better than a pot pie, especially the ones from the freezer section in your market. You know the ones...the crust is like cardboard and about as tasty. Better than beef stew when one of the folks who will be eating with you doesn't eat beef. Although it is a humble dish, this stew will warm you and charm you with the tender chicken, almost caramelized onions, and wonderful savory gravy. Add the heft of potatoes and sweetness of peas and you can understand why this might become one of our family's go-to recipes.

I made this for a crowd, so I used a lot of chicken - eight good sized chicken thighs as a matter of fact. I ended up with two and a half pounds of chicken chunks and a nice amount of chicken broth. I cooked down the left over broth when I finished making the stew and it's ready to be part of a nice chicken soup, so don't throw out the chicken poaching water, OK?

You can adjust the amount of aromatic vegetables and potatoes and peas to suit yourself. I used red potatoes, but you can also use Yukon gold or Idaho brown, just be sure to not over cook them. They should be tender and cooked just enough so you and pierce them with a knife. You can also cook the onions, carrots and celery in butter instead of olive oil if you prefer. The biscuits can be made with a mix like Bisquik, or you can make them from scratch or you can purchase refrigerated biscuits in a package. Just be sure to make the rest from scratch for the best flavor and because it just tastes so good!

By the way, you can eat this the same day you make it. I usually try to make it a day before because I find that dishes like this with cooked onions often taste better after sitting a day to let the flavors meld.

Chicken Stew Topped With Biscuits

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes or thin-skinned red potatoes
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, washed and finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into half coins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock

your favorite biscuits (savory)

Rinse the chicken thighs and place in a large heavy bottomed pot. It's OK to stack them on top of each other. Cover with cold water and then bring the water to a boil, with the pot covered. Once boiling, remove lid and simmer until chicken is tender, about thirty minutes. (At this point I let the pot cool off for a short while, then placed the covered pot into the refrigerator until the next day).

Let pot cool, then removed chicken with tongs and simmer broth while you cut up the chicken. You can use this broth for the 3 cups of chicken stock later in the recipe. The chicken should be cut into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 2.5 pounds of those pieces when you are done. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces and cook over medium-high heat, covered in water, until tender and just cooked enough that you can pierce them with a knife. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the onion and celery and carrots. Cook over medium heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Onions will be translucent. Add the garlic, lower the heat, and cook another 10 minutes, stirring often, Onions will be browned here and there. Add the dried thyme and sage, salt and pepper and stir to combine with the vegetables in the pot. Cook 1 minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the flour, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute, still stirring, to cook the flour. Add the chicken broth all at once, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook until mixture thickens. Add the cooked chicken and the potatoes and stir gently to combine and coat all with the gravy. At this point I usually cover the pot and let the stew sit in the refrigerator until the next afternoon or evening. If you do this, then gently re-heat the stew the next day and continue on with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and make your favorite biscuits, either from scratch, from a mix or use refrigerated biscuits. Bake the biscuits according to package directions or the recipe directions.

While biscuits are baking, heat 2 cups frozen peas (the microwave works well for this). Put the stew in a large casserole dish, top with the hot peas, and put into the oven until the biscuits finish cooking. When the biscuits are baked, take the casserole from the oven, top with the biscuits, spacing the biscuits apart, then serve at once. Serve 6-8 people.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Post-Christmas Reflections

The run up to Christmas was hectic and fun, as it often is. We were blessed this year to have time with our wonderful daughter from Wednesday through Saturday evening and we packed in a lot of good times. There was a game night with neighbors and adult libations, viewing of two movies, including the current box office hit Star Wars - The Force Awakens. We saw most of the Warriors NBA game on Christmas, preceded by lots of gift opening and a nice walk with Pi doggie at the Laguna.

We enjoyed sushi on Wednesday, New York deli pastrami and corned beef (and my own turkey) sandwiches on Christmas Eve, a wonderful Christmas morning brunch which included sweet rolls and scrambled eggs and baked ham and lots of coffee (and tea for me and Straight Shooter), then an easy Christmas dinner with fresh-baked biscuits on top of a chicken stew I cooked on Christmas Eve, plus a delicious fruit and nut salad that Grandma brought. I made the stew early because I knew I would be tired by Christmas dinner time and because most things made with cooked onions seem to taste better the next day.

Of course there were also Christmas cookies now and again throughout the time we were all together, Santa's Whiskers, white chocolate and dried cranberry ones and molasses ginger cookies, plus some crescents and some delicious cookies that Sweetie's sister in Virginia sent. I won't even go into the beverages, except to say that the spiced Old Fashioned drinks with good quality bourbon were a good reason to forgo my self-imposed ban on alcohol.The day after Christmas we saw more family and some friends and ate and drank again with gusto.

 I hope that your holidays included some fun times and some spiritual reflection, too. I am the fortunate caretaker of the family nativity scene that graced my parent's mantle for many years. The photo at the top of the blog is of where it sits this year on the Willett hutch cabinet. You can't see it in this photo, but Mom's photo in the blue sweater was on the right of the greenery arrangement as I know she was with us in spirit. It seems to me that one of the reasons that Christmas has been embraced as a special holiday is because love and the arrival of divine love is the reason for the holiday and there is never too much love. Love inspires us to give to those we love and to cook for those we love and celebrate with them the return of light to the winter world. Although I hope that "Santa" gave you what you were most wishing for, my true hope is that you experienced the gift of love in abundance this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Half Way

Two days ago we hit the half way mark - the winter solstice. We have reached the darkest day of the year after that day more light each day returns to the world until around the 21st of June, when days begin to grow shorter again. Since it was a cold, damp, rainy day it wasn't really obvious. It was sort of dim all day.

 One of the fun things to do on a rainy day is bake cookies. Since it's been blessedly rainy (remember, we are in a four year long drought) for days now, I've been baking for a few days, too. One of the things I baked was a gluten-free, dairy-free version of Santa's Whiskers cookies, so that I can have some at Christmas. I also made a dairy-free and gluten-free molasses cookie which is tasty but not as chewy as I had hoped. The last recipe is for a cookie that seems very seasonal to me, but this one has butter and regular flour, so I won't have any. Sweetie, on the other hand, can eat pretty much anything. He enjoyed these white chocolate-dried cranberry cookies and I can recommend them as easy to make, although not particularly photogenic.

 I looked at a number of recipes, so I don't have attribution for these, having borrowed a bit from here and a bit from there. I think you could add in some nuts if you like and they would probably be even better.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels or chunks
1/2 cup dried soft cranberries

 In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

 Blend in the egg and vanilla
On a sheet of waxed paper, or in a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat to combine.

Stir in the white chocolate and dried cranberries.

Drop 2 tablespoonful dollops of the dough about an inch and a half apart on baking sheets that have been lined with silicone mats or with parchment paper
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about nine minutes. The edges of the cookies will be golden brown.

Cool the cookies on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

This recipe makes about 18 cookies, but it can be doubled for about 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cinnamon Bun Transformation

For the December Cake Slice Bakers, we had the choice of Walnut Raisin Rum Cake which looked wonderful but sounded too much like what I baked last month, Ginger Ginger Cake which was too much like the Gingerbread Cake I had recently made, and Zugar Kirchtorte, a cake I would have loved to make when I was still enjoying butter, but, sadly, butter is no longer my friend.

The fourth choice is the one I chose, Cinnamon Buns, a fine yeast recipe made with fresh mashed potatoes and potato water. I suppose it can be considered, if you stretch the term a bit, as a cake, but I think of it as a sweet bread. I had to make this one as a tip of the hat to my friend Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups. She had me make my first potato bread ever, back when we were both Daring Bakers, and I have loved potato breads ever since. Yeast seems to just love potatoes and the dough, once you get past the initial stickiness (which has been known to cause me to swear), potato dough is supple and feels wonderful to work with. It takes a few more minutes to make these with freshly cooked and mashed potatoes, but it is worth the trouble because the yeast bread is superior to that make with reconstituted mashed potatoes. Just be sure to let the water and potatoes cool enough so that your yeast are happy and not cooked.

Because it's the holiday season I decided to transform the standard pan of buns into a wreath shape. I made two of them and gave one as a gift to a friend. Sweetie and some neighbors enjoyed the other. To make this bread properly, you do need to use milk and butter. It's also a good idea to use fresh cinnamon since that is a key ingredient. I used Penzy's Vietnamese Cinnamon. It is full flavored and so fragrant that it was perfect for this bread. I also decided to add some chopped walnuts, which I sprinkled on top of the butter and cinnamon before I rolled up the dough.

Once the dough is rolled up, which you do for both the buns and the wreath, to make the wreath, form the dough log into a circle and connect the ends together by pinching them. You then take a pair of clean kitchen scissors/shears and cut almost all the way through about every two inches around the circle. You leave the dough connected (uncut) at the inner side of the circle. Once that is done, you turn each of those pieces a bit so that you can see the spiral of bread dough and spice/sugar

After that you let the dough rise again and bake it at the same temperature as the buns. I like a bit of decoration, so I mixed together some hot milk and confectioners sugar and drizzled it over the wreath in a decorative pattern. Pretty as a picture and a nice gift, too.

These buns (for those pieces you turned on the wreath become buns when the wreath is cut) are soft and tender with a wonderful taste of cinnamon and sugar. It smells like the best kitchen in the world while they are baking!

Cinnamon Bun Wreaths
and adaption of a recipe from Maida Heatter's Cakes

1 cup mashed potatoes (see Notes)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
1/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 4 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour or bread flour,
plus additional flour, mostly for kneading
(bread flour is excellent in bread where there is a lot of butter and sugar)

Notes: The mashed potatoes can be made with instant dry mashed potatoes or fresh potatoes.
It takes about 3/4 pound fresh potatoes to make 1 cup mashed. Peel, cut into chunks, place in a small saucepan with water, boil, partially covered, until tender, drain, and then mash the potatoes. Be sure to save the water the potatoes were boiled in and use some of it for dissolving the yeast. Since yeast loves potatoes so much, this will make it extra happy.

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 oz (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Generously butter a 4-6 quart bowl or other container for the dough to rise in. Set it aside.

Place the mashed potatoes (which may be warm or cool, as long as below 111 degrees F) in a saucepan and, stirring constantly, add the milk very gradually. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt and butter. Place over low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture is warm (105-110 degrees F).It is not necessary for the butter to have melted completely, but OK if it does.

Meanwhile, in a 1-cup glass measuring cup, stir the warm water (can be potato water) with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, sprinkle on the yeast, stir briefly with a knife, and set aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture rises to about the 3/4 cup line.

In a small bowl, beat the egg to mix and add the vanilla.

When the potato-and-milk mixture is warm enough, transfer it to the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the yeast mixture and the egg. On low speed, gradually add about 3 cups of the flour. Beat on low speed for a minute or two. Remove the bowl from the mixer. The dough will be wet and sticky now. With a heavy wooden spoon, gradually stir in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of flour. Dough will still be sticky.

Flour a large work surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface. The dough will still be too sticky to knead. Add a bit of additional flour and, with a dough scraper or a wide metal spatula, turn the dough over and over with the additional flour - adding still a bit ore if necessary - until you can handle the dough. (a glass of wine to the side and/or some swearing help when getting through this part - Elle's notes.) You might have to add 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional flour. Remember, though, that potato based dough has a tendency to remain a bit sticky even when enough flour has been added, so do not use more than you must...err on the side of sticky dough.
After about five minutes active kneading, the dough should be smooth and feel alive. If you can be really careful to not add too much flour, you can also do the kneading with your stand mixer.

Place the dough in the buttered bowl, turn it around in the bowl to butter all sides, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a clean shower cap) and place it in a clean, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough is at least double in volume.

Once dough had doubled in volume, make a fist and punch it down in the middle, then fold in and press down the sides of the dough to deflate all of it. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough in half.  Return half the dough to the rising bowl and re-cover.

Take the half dough still on the lightly floured surface and roll it out in a rectangle about 16-18 inches by 10 inches.
The dough may fight you...if so, let it sit for a few minutes while you make the filling components, then return to it and continue shaping.

For the filling, in a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Make sure the walnuts are finely chopped. Brush half the melted butter over the rolled out dough, leaving about 1/2-inch clear around all edges. Sprinkle on half the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the butter, then sprinkle half the walnuts over that evenly. Roll up on the long side like a jelly-roll, pinching the edges together once it is all rolled.

Carefully lift the rolled dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a silicon mat lined baking sheet) and form into a wreath shape. Pinch the ends together. Use a pair of clean scissors or kitchen shears to cut the dough about every two inches, leaving the dough attached at the inner edge of the roll. Carefully take each cut section and turn it so that you can see the filling. Do that with each cut section around the wreath. See the photo above in the beginning of the post to see how it looks at the end, before rising.

Repeat the rolling, filling, rolling up, cutting and turning with the other half of the dough and filling. I used two baking sheets so that they wouldn't stick together.

Set the wreaths in a warm, draft free place and let rise until puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of that time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Before preheating, adjust the rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.

Bake the risen wreaths for about 10 minutes, then reverse the pan from front to back and continue to bake until the wreaths are light golden brown. I baked one pan at a time, but you could probably bake both pans at once if you switched them around half way through baking. Ovens vary, but it will probably take about 25-30 minutes total. Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack five minutes while you prepare the icing.

Optional Icing
In a small bowl mix together 1 tablespoon warm milk and enough confectioners sugar (about 3/4 cup) to make an icing that is the thickness you like. Drizzle the icing over the cooled wreaths.

A cooled, iced wreath makes a nice gift and is also a lovely addition to your holiday table, especially at breakfast or brunch!
Check out the other Cake Slice Baker creations too.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Three Kinds of Ginger

Although I've always loved gingerbread, I was an adult before I discovered the joys of fresh ginger and candied ginger. Of late I've been increasing the amount of ginger in my diet since it is not only an effective anti-inflammatory, but it tastes wonderful. Fresh ginger does have some natural heat to it, but I find that I enjoy that much more than the heat from, say, hot peppers.

One way to enjoy three kinds of ginger; fresh, candied and ground dried ginger; is by making gingerbread cake. I recently tried a new recipe that uses all three and it works really well in a Bundt cake pan. It's called the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread and it's a recipe from Epicurious. I think I decided to try it because the first ingredient is one cup of stout (like Guinness). It also has lots of spices, not just ginger. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom are also used. The strong flavor of molasses comes from molasses itself, but also from dark brown sugar. The only think it was lacking was the candied ginger, so I chopped up a tablespoon of that and added it anyway. It tended to go to the bottom of the pan, which became the top of the cake. I found that out because it got in the way of slicing the beginning of some slices, but I still think it adds a necessary element to the cake.

This makes a full Bundt cake, so make sure that your pan is a full sized one, which I think is a ten-cup capacity or larger one. I baked mine in a pan that looked like a circle of Christmas trees. For decoration I sifted on just a little powdered sugar, so they looked like snowy trees. Very pretty and perfect for a party, or your own holiday table.

This gingerbread is moist, spicy, mouthwatering (perhaps due to the wonderful fragrance of the stout and all those spices), with a fine crumb and sturdy form. Everyone who tried it was delighted, especially those who added a dollop of whipped cream to their serving.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what I made for the Cake Slice Bakers!

Adapted from
Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
from Epicurious

1 C stout (like Guinness which is what I used)
1 C dark molasses
1/2 t baking soda
2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 T ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground cardamom
1 T freshly grated fresh, peeled ginger root
1 T finely diced moist candied ginger
3 large eggs
1 C packed dark brown sugar
1 C granulated sugar
3/4 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 10-inch (10-12 cups) Bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars and fresh ginger. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into Bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, or serve with whipped cream.

As a reward for reading to the end, here is a recent shot of the sunset in our wintery sky. We have been having rain on and off, which is such a blessing!, so there are often clouds in the sky at sunset. Winter sunsets seem to have a wonderful fragile quality to them that I love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Babes And An Old New England Bread

This month I have the honor of being the Kitchen of the Month and have asked my fellow Bread Baking Babes to gather around the kitchen table and to have fun with Anadama Bread, an old New England favorite. Sweetie enjoys this bread because of the molasses and I enjoy the seeds and the fact that it makes great toast. It has corn meal in it for body and mine was a fairly compact bread which rose well enough as it was proofing, but didn't have much oven spring either time I made it. You can have fun with this bread by changing out the seeds. The first time I made it I didn't have many seeds on hand, so I used mostly flax and poppy seeds. 

The second time I used those, but also used sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, plus I used regular flour and just a bit of millet flour. I'm pretty sure that traditional Anadama Bread doesn't have much in the way of seeds, so this is a good recipe to have fun with, knowing that you are giving and old New England bread a new way of being.

Anadama bread is an old time bread, baked at least since 1850. This recipe is from the March 2015 Bon Appetit magazine.
 I tried it out in a semi-gluten free version, replacing 1/2 cup of the wheat flour with buckwheat flour and the King Arthur Flours gluten free flour mix so I could actually try a slice and not suffer for it. I also used a non-dairy butter substitute instead of the butter. For seeds I used 3 tablespoons whole brown flax seeds and 4 teaspoons poppy seeds.  I baked it in a long, thin bread pan, which is usually good for gluten free baking, so it made a long, narrow loaf. I think a regular sized loaf pan would make nicer bread for sandwiches. 

This dough made a pretty dense loaf with wonderful flavor and fragrance. I would recommend using regular flour (unbleached or whole wheat), real butter and whichever seed mixture you like, staying pretty close to the same seed proportions. Do allow time for the three risings.
No one really knows how this bread got its name. Wikipedia says, "An apocryphal story told about the origin of the bread goes like this: Every day a local worker would find cornmeal mush in his tin lunch pail, despite asking his wife for an occasional piece of bread. One day, because of weather or other circumstances, he came home just prior to lunch time. His wife, Anna, was out. He sat down and opened his lunch box to find the usual cornmeal mush. He sighed and said, "Anna, damn her," as he resolutely reached for the flour, molasses and yeast which he added to the cornmeal mush. His resulting bread became a local favourite."
 King Arthur Flour has this explanation: "There are many versions of how this bread came into being. They're all similar, but each varies slightly. The general consensus is that a New England woman named Anna provoked her husband — some say through laziness, others say from baking the same bread daily, or for not finishing her bread-baking. The husband either threw a bag of cornmeal at her and missed, but spilled it into the dough; or he grabbed cornmeal instead of flour and tried to finish her bread. He muttered, "Anna, damn her!"
So you can freely swear while making this bread (it's tradition, right?), have some wine while it rises and rises again...and again, and enjoy it as the weather grows ever colder.

Be sure to visit the other Babes sites to see what their version is and since this is a wonderful bread to go with a pot of hot soup, there is likely to be a good day to make it between now and December 29th. Make the bread, send me an e-mail with a photo and a note about your experience with it, and I'll send you a Buddy badge created by our talented Babe Lien. My e-mail is elle dot lachman at gmail dot com. Looking forward to seeing your beautiful, seedy Anadama Bread.

Anadama Bread - Makes one loaf

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 - 1/4 oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 cup stone ground medium cornmeal
1/4 cup mild-flavored molasses
2 tablespoons help seeds or white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds or black sesame seeds
2 tsp. golden flaxseed
2 tsp. brown flaxseed
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading, etc.
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Salted butter, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8" x 4" loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang. (I skipped the parchment and baked the bread in a narrower and longer pan.)

Place yeast in a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1 cup warm water; stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the cornmeal, molasses, help seeds, nigella seeds, golden and brown flax seeds, poppy seeds and salt. Stir to combine using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring with the wooden spoon or use the dough hook if using the stand mixer. Add 2 cups of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter and mix until no dry spots remain.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 10-15 minutes OR mix in stand mixer on medium speed 8-10 minutes.

Lightly butter a medium bowl. Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat. (Elizabeth might skip the butter part.) Cover with plastic wrap or shower cap and let rise in warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough to deflate; cover. Let rise again until about doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into and 8' x 4' rectangle. Starting at the short side furthest from you, roll up dough, pinching the seam as you go to create a tight roll. Pinch seam to close and tuck ends under, pinching to seal. Place seam side down in the prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic and let dough rise. Uncover before it crests the top of the pan and wait for it to spring back slightly when pressed, about 1 hour.

Brush top of dough with egg. Bake, rotating halfway through, until bread is baked through and the top is a deep golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack before turning out. Let cool on the rack before slicing (if you can wait that long). Serve with salted butter.

Bread can be made 5 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Time To Remember

I know that today is Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, but for me the day is special because I'm remembering my mom, who died just a year ago today.

I come from a large siblings!...and they are all handling the memories and sense of loss in different ways today, and so am I. I did a Facebook post and shared an e-mail round robin with family. I made sure that as many siblings as possible had mom's signature cookie, crescent cookies with powdered sugar coating. They will be enjoyed with cocoa, tea, Irish Mist and any number of other libations. Tomorrow some family members who are gathering at my home for an early Christmas, as well as a late birthday, will get their crescents and we'll toast a wonderful Mom! You are missed Mother.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Bacon and Dates

According to my sources, bacon wrapped stuffed dates have been a popular appetizer for a while, but I guess I missed that. Perhaps I don't eat at the right restaurants.

For Thanksgiving I was asked to bring stuffing and an apple crisp. I also brought a pecan pie because pie and Thanksgiving just go together. My lovely daughter brought the stuffed dates, although I helped heavily with the making of them.

We started with moist, large, pitted dates. If your dates aren't moist you may want to steam them briefly before starting, because some of the moisture is cooked off while the bacon cooks.

I like blue cheese with walnuts and since the recipe called for walnuts, we included a nubbin of good quality blue cheese, too. Warm melty cheese is always a treat. Each slice of bacon was cut in thirds and used to wrap three stuffed dates, so make sure you have enough bacon. If your bacon strips are short ones, you may even need to only wrap two dates per strip of bacon...extra bacon can be used for other purposed, right?

I pre-heated some cast iron skillets in the oven and added the stuffed dates to them which helped crisp up the bacon. They weren't fully cooked because we re-warmed them at the home where we were dining.

I warn you, these can be addictive! Who can resist warm and crisp bacon, soft and sweet date, crisp and mellow walnut and piquant blue cheese, all in one bite? Not me.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

24 large moist medjool dates
8 or so walnuts, broken
1 oz. blue cheese
8-12 strips bacon - cut in two or three pieces depending on the length

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you have them, place two cast iron skillets in to preheat.

If dates have pits, remove the pits by slicing carefully from one end to the other with a paring knife and then removing the pit with the tip of the knife. Be sure to only cut the top of the date, NOT all the way through to the bottom. If your dates are not moist, steam them briefly before starting.

Stuff where the pits usually live with pieces of walnut and a nubbin of the blue cheese. You can use goat cheese if you prefer it to blue cheese.

Wrap a strip of bacon around the date, putting the stuffed part face down onto the bacon, overlapping the ends of the bacon on the opposite side. Secure with a toothpick.

If not using a cast iron skillet for baking, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the finished dates on the parchment.

Bake on the baking sheet or in the preheated skillets for about 8-10 minutes, turning over halfway. Bacon will start to turn golden and get slightly crispy on the edges. If you prefer, cook for another minute to cook the bacon a bit more.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Dates should be warm, not hot. They can also be served cold.

If you make them in advance, reheat them for a minute or two in the microwave if you prefer them warm.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fluffy Bourbon

One of the delightful things about being in the kitchen with my daughter is that she encourages e to try some things I wouldn't even consider making if left to my own devices. A good example of that is the weird science experiment that led us to create small red balls of flavor to put into mixed drinks.

Yesterday, since I wasn't the one cooking the turkey, there was a little time after making cornbread stuffing, apple crisp, a pecan pie and bacon wrapped stuffed dates. We used that time to whip up a batch of home made marshmallows. To make them even more interesting, she found a recipe by Jerry James Stone of Cooking Stoned for Bourbon Vanilla Marshmallows. I never thought that I would smell the heady fragrance of good bourbon while making fluffy marshmallows, but it was a great experience.

The finished marshmallows were cut and coated in a bit more of their powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture, then stacked in airtight containers. The little sweets were thinner than I expected, but next time we can make them in a smaller pan to get taller marshmallows. The flavor doesn't need any tweaking and they should be a great addition to a cup of cocoa which has a shot of good bourbon in it.

The whole process takes some time, but most of that is letting the marshmallows cure. The initial cooking takes less than an hour. Eggs are separated for the whites, gelatin takes a few minutes to soak, sugar and water gets heated, then some corn syrup is added and

then the soaked gelatin and the whole thing cooks to the hard ball stage (verified by using a candy thermometer). While the sugar syrup cooks, the egg whites get beaten with a little salt. If you have a helper they can sift together some cornstarch and confectioners' sugar for the pan. Otherwise you can do that yourself a little later.

The fun part is when the bourbon and vanilla gets added to the hot syrup and is stirred in. The heat makes the whole kitchen smell of bourbon and the hot mixture hisses and boils up a little bit! Once the egg whites get really fluffy, you slowly pour the hot syrup over them between the beater and the bowl while the stand mixer keeps on beating those egg whites. Be careful while handling the syrup. It can really burn if splashed on your skin, so keep a bowl of ice water handy. As the mixture fluffs some more, you can sift the cornstarch and confectioners' sugar together if it's not done already.

The confectioners' sugar mixture is sifted liberally over the bottom of the baking sheet. The fluffy, cooled marshmallow mixture is poured over that and the mixture is spread and leveled with an offset spatula, then more of the sugar mixture is sifted over it.

After that there's nothing more for you to do for at least 5 hours. We let ours sit on the counter overnight and in the morning they were ready to be cut, dredged in more sugar mixture to coat the cut edges, then packed for use. Takes a little time if you have a whole sheet pan worth, but if you use a smaller pan for taller marshmallows, it shouldn't take too much time and you will still have plenty of wonderful home made marshmallows. The directions are Jerry James's, not mine, but they work.

If you have a loved one who loves marshmallows, this could make a great holiday gift!

Vanilla Bourbon Marshmallows
Jerry James Stone of Cooking Stoned blog

·     3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
·     ½ cup cold water
·     2 cups granulated white sugar
·     ⅓ cup light corn syrup
·     ½ cup Bourbon
·     3 large egg whites
·     ¼ teaspoon salt
·     2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·     1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
·     ½ cup cornstarch
·     ½ cup powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine the 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin and 1/4 cup of the water. Mix and let stand. Be forewarned, it’s gonna look pretty gross once it sets. Also, really, before you go any further, I suggest having all ingredients ready to go.

In a small sauce pan, combine 2 cups of sugar and the remaining water and warm it over a medium low heat. A minute later, add in ⅓ cup corn syrup and turn the heat up to medium-high. You’re going to bring the mixture to 240 degrees F. Corn syrup prevents the mallows from crystallizing and with the addition of bourbon, it is sorta needed.

While that is going on, let’s do some other stuff. Using a stand mixer, mix the three egg whites and ¼ teaspoon salt on low until they are just a bit foamy.

When the sugary syrup hits 240 degrees F, turn off the heat and add the following to the mix: ½ cup of bourbon and the gelatin mixture. While the gelatin melts, turn the stand mixer back on, this time to high, and start whipping those whites. Whip ‘em real good.
Once the whites have become fluffy and pillow-like, slowly pour the syrupy mixture into the mixer bowl where you’re spanking those egg whites. Do this slowly! You do not want to be splashed with boiling hot syrup.

Add in the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and scraped vanilla bean seeds and whip it until the mixture is fluffy, stiff and the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch.
While that is going on, using a large mixing bowl, sift together ½ cup cornstarch and ½ cup powdered sugar. This is the coating for the marshmallows.

Now heavily coat a baking sheet with some of the marshmallow coating. Seriously, no bare spots here! Pour the fluffy marshmallow creme onto the baking sheet, using a spatula to even it out. Dust it with some of the coating and then let it sit for about 5 hours, uncovered. Go watch Hulu or something.

Using a pizza cutter, dusted with some of the coating, cut the marshmallows into any shape or size you want. This is a great time to bust out some funky cookie cutters, right? Unicorns anyone? Toss the cut marshmallows into the mixing bowl with the coating, just a few at a time, and using a spoon, make sure they are fully powdered. Then using a wire strainer, give the mallows a good shake to remove the excess coating. These can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container.