Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

The best part of 2016 for me was going to Ireland and France. I bought a new ornament for the Christmas tree to commemorate that...a bag of baguettes.

Somehow 2016 seemed like a long year...probably because of the Presidential elections here in the U.S. Not thrilled with the outcome, but perhaps there will be positive foolishness and not just negative foolishness. Already hearing some who were thrilled the day after the election who have changed their minds. That's a pretty quick turn around considering that we heard practically nothing 24/7 but Trump this and Trump that. Anyone who was paying attention pretty much knew that we were going to get what we are starting to get. The inauguration is still almost 3 weeks away!

On to more positive things. Not sure if it is Pollyanna or ostrich behavior.

Santa gave me a new fitbit for Christmas since my old one conked out on me. The old one was sweet and simple. This one is so complicated that I haven't been able to complete setup so far. I'll try again tomorrow morning. I have to decide on using my iPhone as the dashboard or a Windows 10 computer. I somehow thought that I could use both. I used the iPad and my computer with the old, simple one. Perhaps Santa should have just given me another simple one. I'm a simple kinda girl. Oh, that's right....positive, positive, positive. Well, when it gets going I'm going to have access to more information to encourage me to have healthier habits. There, positive enough?

It truly is a beautiful day/evening and I truly wish each and every one of you a most Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016


One of the signature dishes that Katherine is always asked to bring to parties is what started out being called Christmas Crack. She made it one year for our Boxing Day Party and then figured out variations for other themes, like Super Bowl, New Year's, and the Oscars. This year she showed me how to make it. It's pretty quick and easy, although making sure you have all the elements may take a bit of doing. I found everything I needed at Target, plus I already had red and green sprinkles and some silver decorating edible dust.

First you gather your ingredients: Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn popcorn, mini pretzels, Candiquik vanilla melt and make, M&Ms (here is where you can go with a theme...for Christmas red and green works really well),

sprinkles, sea salt. I added some silver culinary dust for extra sparkle, plus we had some sparkle M&Ms and tiny red and green Christmas tree sprinkles.

Next lay out two long sheets of plastic wrap, overlapping slightly, on a clean surface. This is where the mixture will cool.

Break the mini pretzels into smaller pieces and measure out two cups of them.

Place the popcorn and pretzel pieces in a large bowl. Add about half the M&Ms. Set aside.

Break up the Candiquik into chunks and put them in a microwave safe bowl to melt. We goofed and used a bowl that heated up too well in the microwave, so the candiquik started to brown! Should have used a Pyrex bowl. Live and learn. I'm sure to make this again.

Melt candiquik in the microwave, a minute at a time, stirring after each minute, until the candy coating is smooth and melted.

Pour about half over the popcorn and pretzels and M&Ms, stir to coat those with the melted candy. Add another quarter of the M&Ms and stir again.

Keep stirring to coat everything in the bowl well.

Pour the mixture out onto the prepared plastic and nudge with a spatula into a pretty even layer.

Sprinkle on the rest of the M&Ms and drizzle on the rest of the candy coating. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, sea salt and the silver dust, if using. Use the toppings that make you happy, but don't forget the salt. The sweet/salty results are part of the addictiveness.

Let the mixture cool and become firm. Pile into a bowl and be prepared to become instantly addicted!
The crunch of the popcorn and pretzels goes so well with the creamy coating, the sweet M&Ms and sprinkles and crunchy sea salt. Sweet, salty, crunchy, YUM.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Comfort Food Like It's The 1960s

We are coming to the end of 2016 and I am delighted that NoHandle has given us the gift of another guest post:

My eclectic reading led me to a discussion of the national cuisine of Great Britain not being Fish and Chips, but rather Curry. This brought back some memories of a dish that didn’t make it into Elle’s cookbook, but was served at home at least a few times. Internet searching suggests it was somewhat commonplace into the 1960s. It was called 9-Boy Curry, where the 9 might be any number between 5 and 12, and signified the number of servants (boys) that would have been needed, in England’s far-Eastern empire, to serve the condiments that enlivened the dish, and that topped the curry after it was served. A quick survey of the Internet yielded the basic recipe, a chicken curry, and that it was traditionally served over white rice (at least in the U. S. of the period), plus an extensive list of condiments, with which you can go wild. They are listed at the end of the recipe and narrative given here.

That curry is archetypically British was already known to me. There is no curry native to Indian cuisine as such, and in fact the composition of this melange of spices, apart from the “5 Cs” and turmeric, is highly variable. The closest Indian mixture is probably Garam Marsala. Curry was composed for the British occupiers, and exported home when they left. In my brief visit to London a few years ago, I didn’t notice any particularly large number of curry shops, but I wasn’t looking for them either. My friend Butterfly spent several months in London, and assures me the British eat a LOT of curry.

With that preamble, here is a quick trip through preparing this exotic comfort food. Like curry powder, this recipe is a blend of several sources. It’s all good. The list is long, but preparation is quite simple:

2 three-lb. roasting chickens or 8 chicken breast halves
            (It has been noted that this is also a great way to consume turkey leftovers.)
1 yellow onion, quartered
4 whole cloves
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
2 Tablespoons of parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ Cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
½ teaspoon ground ginger (fresh ginger is even nicer, about 1 Tablespoon shredded should work)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 green apples (Granny Smith will do) peeled and sliced
2 onions, chopped
1 14-oz. can of tomatoes with green chillies, drained
3 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 Cups (reserved) chicken stock
1 lemon’s juice
½ Cup dry white wine
½ Cup half and half
Cooked rice (basmati is nice for this)


We are starting with a chicken stock, so in a deep stock pot, place whole chickens (or breasts) with the next eight ingredients (above the line above). Add enough water to cover the chickens plus a couple of inches. If you are using chicken breasts, layer the seasonings with the chicken. Cover and simmer until just tender, but not falling apart. For me, at altitude (Denver, U.S.A. area), this was about two hours from a standing start. The only attention was to turn down the heat once it boiled (about 30 minutes). Chickens cook quickly, but stock pots vary wildly. Skim the stock if foam collects. 

When done, remove the chicken to cool; skin, bone, and cut into bite-sized pieces. A pair of tongs was my most useful tool. Strain and reserve the stock. You will have lots more than you need.

Next prepare the sauce; this part takes about 45 minutes. Sauté garlic in the butter, then the flour and seasonings. This blooms the spices before the other ingredients dilute the effect. Add the onions, apples, tomatoes, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then add stock (4 cups), lemon juice, and wine.

Cook an additional 15 minutes until smooth and fairly thick. Divide this sauce into two batches and blend. 

Add enough cream to reach the desired consistency (fairly thick; you know, covers the back of a spoon). Restore the chicken pieces to the sauce and heat gently for 10 minutes. You could put this in a warmer on the table so people can serve themselves small portions as they mix and match the condiments. 

Serve with a side steamer of rice, and of course your selection of condiments. Pass them around, family style, or place in the center for easy access. You won’t want to try everything together, but you might choose a few, server yourself a little more and try a different selection, repeating until you have found your favorites. Some combinations will be surprisingly good; who knew that this paired so well with that? It’s an adventure!

At about the same time as you start the sauce, you will want to start the rice (unless your using MinuteRice, which I do occasionally). Here I used James Beard’s technique for “steamed” rice, done in a skillet. Cover the rice (1 cup here, but probably 2 cups or more with a full recipe) with about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Then reduce to a simmer. Takes about 20 minutes. It came out slightly gummy.

Condiments (choose a dozen or less from this list):
Crumbled bacon
toasted coconut
grated egg yolks
grated egg whites
chopped toasted peanuts (boiled peanuts toast really well)
sunflower seeds
chopped crystalized ginger (or sweetened dried ginger slices, chopped; check Costco)
sultanas (golden raisins)
chopped celery
diced carrots
chopped onion (red or yellow)
diced pickled onions
strips of citrus zest (both lemon and lime; experiment with grapefruit)
chopped scallions
chopped toasted (or smoked) almonds
chutney (lots of choices here)
dried (or fresh) pineapple shreds
avocado pieces
chopped olives
orange marmalade

This is a great family or friends experience, seeing how your flavor palates compare, and trying new flavors from a land that is not traditionally known for rich spices. By the way, this is not bland, but neither is it as spicy as most dishes at an Indian restaurant. My wife (sorry girls ;-) is not a fan of strong spices, and she liked this a lot. Experiment with the amounts of spices too. Enjoy! ~NoHandle

Monday, December 26, 2016


I hope that your Christmas was filled with joy, and that the time didn't fly by quite so quickly as it seemed to here.

The time with our daughter here at home just flew by. It didn't help that her flight was cancelled, so she arrived the next morning, which meant less time together. Still, we had fun decorating the tree together, much to Sweetie's amusement. Some years we go with a color theme and this year we agreed on red and gold, so the multi-colored lights and ornaments we have used in recent years were left in the attic, but we still had plenty of lovely ornaments, strings of tiny white lights, and barely enough non-breakable decorations for the bottom branches where the lethal black lab tail of Pi would wreck havoc with breakable ornaments.

We listened to Christmas music,  and moved things around until everything looked balanced (and this process was greatly amusing to Sweetie who is still mystified as to why this ritual is so enjoyable for us. He does, however, enjoy the finished product and told us so a number of times). The photo at the top of the post is the finished tree. See the new French baguette ornament I got to remind us of our trip? Notice the gorgeous hot air balloon ornament from Kate? Hot air balloons are very Sonoma County. It's fun to add an ornament or two each year.

Then we moved on to getting ready for the tea!

Christmas Eve was peaceful and we enjoyed a relatively fancy dinner of coq au vin, mashed potatoes and peas. I also baked a goodie for Christmas morning.

Christmas was even more laid back. Coffee and tea first, of course. Then we gently reheated my version of the Kringle recipe that is this month's #bakealong recipe at King Arthur Flour. Theirs was a pecan and caramel Kringle. I went with almond and raspberry, including putting a thin rope of almond paste between the bottom and top layers which was not in the recipe at all. The Kringle was moist and almondy and perfect! Looks like I have found our 'new tradition' recipe for Christmas morning. We also had fruit salad that Sweetie made, mimosas that Kate made and some delicious ham.

In the afternoon we had some friends and neighbors drop by. The table had been set up with an array for foods that can sit out as a buffet, like roasted peppers, kale salad, bean and corn salad, bread and cheese and a tray of mixed dried fruits. When they arrived I added things from the fridge, including potato salad, hummus and chips, and an assortment of salamis. The two couples each went home with a plate of Christmas cookies, too.

It was nice to just have a few folks over. We'll do the Boxing Day Bash next year and have lots of people to visit with. It would have been too much this year.

So Kate flew home today, I visited with Straight Shooter (since when he arrived in the late afternoon Christmas Day we were already visiting with those who had dropped by), had tea with a friend who brought a new, gorgeous doggie bed for Pi (thank you Paula...he loves it!), and took a nap. Did some laundry, ran the dishwasher, helped take out the trash...that sort of thing.

It would have been hard to have a better Christmas (except for having Kate and Straight Shooter here for another day or two).

Tomorrow or the next day I'll have a guest post for you...with a recipe that I would never make, but one that looks delicious!

Here is the recipe for the Kringle as tinkered with by me:

Almond Raspberry Kringle
Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine, cut into pats
  • 1 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 4 oz. almond paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners'  sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy milk, enough to make a thick but pourable glaze
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet that's at least 18" x 13"; or a 14" round pizza pan.
  2. To make the base: Combine the margarine, flour, sugar and salt, mixing until crumbly. I used a pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour mixture. Add the water, and stir to make a soft, sticky dough. I used a fork and added the water slowly as I do for pie crust.
  3. Wet your hands, pick up the dough, and shape it into a 12" x 8" oval ring on the sheet pan; or a 10" ring in the pizza pan. This will be messy going, but just keep wetting your fingers and pushing it into a ring. An easy way to approach this is to first divide the dough into four pieces; roll each piece into a 9" rope, then connect the ropes and shape them into a ring.
  4. Once you've made the ring, flatten the dough so it's about 1 1/2" wide; basically, it'll look like a train or NASCAR track. Make a thin rope out of the almond paste and put it over the dough, connecting the ends so that the whole 'track' has a ring of almond paste in the middle of the track.
  5. To make the pastry topping: Place the water, margarine, and salt in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the margarine is melted and the mixture is boiling.
  6. Immediately add the flour, stirring with a spatula until the mixture is cohesive and starts to form a ball.
  7. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the almond extract at the end.
  8. Spread the pastry along the ring, covering it and the almond paste completely; you'll now have a much wider ring, though it won't be completely closed in the center; it should still look like a ring.
  9. Bake the kringle for 50 to 60 minutes, until it's a deep golden brown. When the kringle is done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely on the pan.
  10. To add the filling: First, have the sliced almonds all ready beside the pan of kringle; you'll be sprinkling them atop the jam as soon as you put it on.
  11. Stir the jam with a fork to break it up and then spread it over the kringle in a thin, even layer, mostly in the middle. Sprinkle sliced almonds atop the raspberry jam, pressing them in gently. Allow the kringle to cool completely.
  12. To make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners' sugar, salt, flavor almond extract and enough soy milk to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle it over the kringle.
  13. To serve, cut the kringle in 2" slices.

If you prefer, you can bake the base, almond paste and cooked dough topping the day before serving, then wrap well and let sit on the counter overnight. In the morning add the jam and glaze. 

I baked mine and did the jam and glaze on Christmas Eve, then put it in the microwave overnight (out of sight, out of mind, so no one is tempted to try it early), then reheated it gently in the microwave before serving on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Tea

It's been years since I last hosted a Christmas Tea for family. Fortunately, today my sister, her husband and granddaughter, Sweetie and my own amazing daughter were all able to gather around the table laden with finger sandwiches filled with chicken salad and with egg salad, cold cooked shrimp, a wonderful assortment of cheeses (with crackers) that Natashya brought, hummus and pita chips, mixed nuts, and assorted Christmas cookies. Of course there was lots of tea, plus some spiced hot apple cider and some good strong coffee for their trip home.

One of the things I discovered during preparations for the tea is that I don't really enjoy making tea sandwiches. I love eating them, but the making is too fussy. Guess I'll never run my own tea shop! I also discovered that I didn't have a recipe for egg salad. There was one for Classic Chicken Salad in the Comfort Food cookbook, but I guess egg salad was left out. I looked at a lot of egg salad recipes online and figured out my own recipe, which is below.

There is something very graceful about a tea party. Conversation goes around the table, as does the food. Stories are told and jokes laughed at. I think I refilled the tea pot with boiling water and new tea bags (yes, I used tea bags when I need the today) at least a half dozen times as cups were filled and refilled.

Because we were also doing a late celebration of Natashya's birthday, I baked Maida Heatter's 86-Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake, using bourbon instead of Irish whiskey. It was delicious and a nice ending to the tea party.

Egg Salad for Sandwiches

6 eggs, hard boiled, chilled and peeled
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon milk or soy milk
salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop the hard boiled eggs and put chopped egg in a mixing bowl.

Add the chopped celery and chopped parsley, but don't mix.

In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and milk. Stir to combine well. Add to the egg bowl. Stir gently to combine the egg, celery, parsley and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix in. Chill until ready to use to make sandwiches.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

All is Calm

Hard to believe but tonight all is calm. Katherine will be coming home tomorrow night and we have a family celebratory tea on Friday afternoon, but Sweetie and I have been gradually getting things ready, wrapping packages, washing and drying teacups, making cookies

and stringing up lights outside on the porch. Feeling festive and grateful for our health and such great family and friends that we have been blessed with.

The second anniversary of my Mom's death was last week, dimming the seasonal joy a bit. I miss her every day, but it usually brings a smile to my lips, remembering something she said or did or her perspective on something. Tonight I put up her Nativity Scene (see photo at top) on the Willett hutch, right next to the photo of her in her blue sweater. It's the one that graced her mantle for over 20 years at Christmas, and it makes me smile having it in my kitchen. Good to remember the reason for the season, especially with the busy times just ahead.

Hope you are enjoying the time spent preparing for the coming of the Savior, the return of light to the world, however you see this short day when night is the longest here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mellow Gingerbread For Cold Weather

We have been having winter weather. Compared to the below zero temperatures being experienced elsewhere, our 23 degrees is warm, but here in California it is perceived as being cold. Lots of frost in the morning has really gotten me in the Christmas spirit, too. I've been baking Christmas cookies, but also this delicious gingerbread, one of the choices for the Cake Slice Bakers for December.

This is a nice, moist cake and it sits pretty high in the pan. We are baking from World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey. The photo with this recipe showed an awesome lace on top, made with royal icing. It was far too time consuming for this time of year. Besides, I like to serve my gingerbread with Mom's lemon sauce. There is just something great about lemon and gingerbread. Since this gingerbread has lemon zest in it, the combination is perfect.

I do prefer my gingerbread a bit darker, so next time I would probably use more molasses. I didn't use blackstrap molasses, just dark molasses, so that might have made it darker. I think I would also bake it in two eight-inch cake pans so that it was a thinner cake. Just a personal preference, since this really was fine just the way it was, and with a nice, mellow ginger flavor. I did change it a bit to make it non-dairy, but kept the rest of the ingredients as written...well, I used less lemon zest since I needed some for my lemon sauce. I also used the Dorie Greenspan technique of rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar instead of stirring it in at the end.

Be sure to check out what the other Cake Slice Bakers have made this month. Our choices included Coffee and Walnut Cake, P.A. Young's Torta, Caribbean Coconut and Rum Cake and my Gingerbread!


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) non-dairy margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 2/3 cups soy creamer
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons molasses
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and grease and line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
Combine the sugar and the lemon zest with your fingers. The lemon oils will mix with the sugar.
Cream the margarine and sugar mixture together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time.

Add the sifted flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix until well combined.

Warm the soy milk slightly in a pan on low heat and add the dark corn syrup and the molasses, mix, then pour into the batter. Mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared square cake pan and bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Turn out onto a wire rack. Strip off the parchment paper and return to top side up.

Slice once cool. Serve with warm lemon sauce for a taste treat!

Mom's Lemon Sauce

½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice (I used Meyer, but any lemon juice and zest is fine.
Zest from 1 lemon

In a saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch thoroughly. Gradually add the boiling water, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and boil at full boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and stir until well blended.

Friday, December 16, 2016

All Is Bright....With The Babes

I know it seems sorta crazy to be making a new and complicated (sort of) bread when I'm also baking up dozens of cookies for the Christmas holidays. Still, this is one bread that I wanted to make the moment I saw the photo of it. Who can resist a bright magenta bread? It is even harder to resist when you realize that the lovely color comes from a puree of beets.

This month Cathy of Bread Experience challenged the Bread Baking Babes to make a braided beet bread.  She created her own recipe. Cathy said, " I chose the challah formula from the Bread Baker's Apprentice and converted it to sourdough as well as adding the beets.  I paid careful attention to the hydration." 

I used some lovely organic beets which were so fresh that the greens attached to them stayed unwilted for days even in my warm kitchen. I also chose smallish beets and they were tender and delicious.

I decided to go with a savory version instead of a sweet one, so I roasted the beets in a foil packet that included fresh cloves of garlic, fresh rosemary and a little olive oil. My kitchen smelled so good while they were roasting. After they cooled I peeled them and used a blender and some water to puree them. I added a couple cloves of the roasted garlic, too. Love roasted garlic!

I also decided to make braided rolls instead of a braided loaf. Since I wasn't entirely sure that my sourdough starter was robust, I also added some dry instant yeast to the flour mixture. Perhaps I added too much because the oven spring turned my nice braided rolls into really large rolls. I gave a couple of the rolls to friends and they thanked me for the "Fluffy, purple, hippo bagels - wonderful". I think the hippo part is because they ended up oversized from all that oven spring. The outside of the baked rolls were still that bright magenta, but the insides were a pretty, deep salmon pink.

 Best of all they were delicious. You couldn't really taste the beets, but you could taste the sourdough. I think the beets amped up the sourdough experience somehow.

Thank you Cathy for choosing this great recipe. It's always a challenge working with fresh beets unless you like a magenta kitchen, but it was worth some wiping up to experience this super bread. I especially appreciate having the grams measurements. Weighing the beets makes so much more sense than using a measuring cup.

Become a beet bread buddy! Make your own version and email a description of your bake and a photo to Cathy by Dec. 29th to get your Buddy Badge and to be included in the round-up.

Check out what the other Babes have baked this month, too.
A Messy Kitchen - Kelly -
Bake My Day - Karen -
Blog From Our Kitchen - Elizabeth -
Bread Experience - Cathy -
Judy's Gross Eats - Judy -
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna  -
Notitie van Lien - Lien  -
and our queen of the round-up:
Thyme for Cooking - Katie  -

Here is the recipe from Cathy, altered a bit by me (look at how big they are!):

Sourdough Beet Bread Formula

425 grams bread flour + 100 grams reserved for kneading (I needed a bit more)
128 grams sourdough  (I used a  100% hydration sourdough, so I needed to decrease the water to 100 grams.) 
3 tablespoons sugar (I omitted the sugar)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (I increased to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
155 grams water (see note by sourdough)
3 beets, roasted (final weight 106 grams) and pureed with the 100 grams of water
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional (I omitted the vanilla)
Poppy seeds, optional (I used mixed seeds) and one egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for wash

Puree the beets in a blender, adding the water gradually.  Depending on how much you roast the beats, you may not need all of the water.  I added 75 grams during blending and the remaining 25 grams to wash down the sides of the blender.  I didn't want to waste any of the beautiful color.

Mix the flour (reserving 100 grams), yeast and salt together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the pureed beets, beaten eggs and egg yolks, and oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir slightly.  Add the sourdough on top and mix thoroughly.  Mix using a Danish dough whisk or wooden spoon.  You can use a mixer, which I did for the first try, but I think it got over mixed so I recommend doing it by hand so you can feel the dough.

Mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated and there are no bits of dry flour.  Let it rest for 30 minutes.  

Remove the mixture to a floured surface or you can continue doing this part in the mixing bowl.  Gradually add 75 - 100 grams of flour while kneading the dough.  It should become very supple and workable.  Resist the urge to add too much flour.  Unless you change the hydration of the sourdough, you shouldn't need too much more flour (although I did).

Clean out the bowl, or scrape it down really well. Shape the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel.  Let it proof for 4 to 5 hours.  Perform a fold after the 1st hour, place back in the bowl. Repeat at the 2nd hour.  Let rest for 2 to 3 more hours.  Perform an additional fold if necessary.

After the bulk fermentation, divide the dough for braiding. Look at that color! Amazing that the baked rolls still retained some of that color.

Roll out the ropes for the braids, shape the braids and tuck the ends under.  For instructions for braided rolls see this post.

Place the braided rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash (I did the egg wash only on the risen rolls).  Let them proof 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until they have grown to about 1 1/2 times their original size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (or 325 degrees F. for the double braid) and place the oven rack on the middle shelf. 

Brush the loaf again with egg wash and sprinkle the top with poppy seeds (I used a seed mix from King Arthur Flour).

Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, rotate the pan for even baking, then bake an additional 20 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the loaf. It should register 190 degrees in the center. The rolls bake in about 20 minutes total.

Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Almonds Take This Cookie To Crunchy Town

Often when a recipe calls for toasting the almonds before using them I just ignore it. Although the toasting process gives the almonds a delicious flavor, in a lot of recipes you can barely tell the difference. Not so in this biscotti recipe. The toasting makes all the difference, both in flavor and in the crunchiness of the nuts in the finished cookie.

You start with a cup of toasted almonds. I spread the nuts on a cookie sheet with space between the nuts, bake them at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes, then let them cool. They sort of pop and crackle when they are cooling.

The dough itself is unusual because you add the whole almonds to the flour mixture and so the nuts get mixed in at the same time...which is a bit hard on the mixer to tell the truth. You can also stir the dry ingredients in with a spoon. Just be sure to keep stirring until a cohesive dough forms.

This recipe is one I got from Jana, still very much missed niece-in-law, whom we lost to ovarian cancer over a decade ago. The cookies are fully flavored with almonds being the main flavor note. They are light and crunchy and delicious as is, or dunked into coffee or hot chocolate. She gave us some at Christmas one year so it seems appropriate to make them for Christmas this year. Give them a try. They are easy to make and when you pat the dough into logs you even get to play with your food and no one minds. Here are what the baked logs/loaves look like.

These are twice baked cookies. First you bake these loaves, then you slice the loaves and put the slices on cookie sheets and bake them some more. The actual time you need to work is short, but because you are baking these twice, the baking time is longer.

I tried baking two sheets at the same time for the second bake, but I forgot to switch the pans around halfway through the baking time (twirling them front to back and putting the pans from the top rack down and the ones from the lower rack up). The result was that the bottom sheet had dark brown bottoms. They taste OK but I like the paler ones better.

These make great gifts!

Jana's Almond Biscotti
makes about 3 dozen

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Toast the almonds 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree F. oven. Let cool.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs, adding eggs one at a time and beating well after each addition. Add almond extract with the last egg. Scrape sides and beater(s) as needed.
In another bowl stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and whole, toasted, nuts. Add this dry mixture to the egg mixture on low speed. Let mixer combine them until dough forms.

On a greased 12" x 15" baking sheet, use well-floured hands to pat dough into 2 flat loaves, about 3/4" thick.

Bake in 350 degree F. oven about 20 minutes, until browned at edges and springy to the touch. Let the loaves cool on the sheet until cool, then cut on the diagonal into long 1/2" slices.

Arrange slices on the baking sheet close together with a cut side down. Return baking sheet to oven and bake at 350 degrees F. until cookies are brown, 15-18 minutes longer.

Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Serve or store airtight. These can be frozen for 3-6 months, too.