Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Home Again and Baking Multigrain Pecan Bread

It is quite a shock to suddenly lose the youngest sibling, so it's not surprising that the time following it is a bit surreal. Sweetie and I flew to be with her husband and stayed with him for a while to help by listening (which is really the best thing you can do for someone after a shocking loss like this), helping with getting him to professional health folks, helping with the funeral arrangements and obituary, and with day to day stuff like grocery shopping. Being in shock myself I found I had no appetite to speak of and no desire to cook (which is really strange for me) but there were dogs to love on and cats to scritch and a lot of love going around. Beautiful Taos scenery, too.

Ron went to Denver for Thanksgiving to be with his family and Sweetie and I flew to LA to be with ours. We had a fine morning at Manhattan Beach with Sweetie's extended family, then six for dinner on Thanksgiving at our place. A meal from Whole Foods made it all easy. Good times with our daughter and nephew and friends.

Rented the 'Beach House' in Redondo Beach/Torrance on VRBO and I highly recommend it, especially for nice weather. The backyard has a big grassy area, two seating areas, one of those gas elements that heat one of the seating areas, and the furniture is comfy. We spent a lot of time out there! If you have dogs, there is also a dog door in the kitchen and the yard is fully fenced with a pretty high fence. There are three bedrooms and comfy beds. Only one bathroom, but I grew up with a large family and one bathroom, so no problem. Nice kitchen with lots and lots of amenities. Big washer and dryer. Dining table for six. Lots of games under the big TV in the livingroom. It's about 4 miles from any beach, but truly a delightful place.

Once we were back home, my sourdough starter really needed feeding, so I did that and made bread with the 'toss off' after feeding it, too. It was the perfect way to ease back into cooking and baking. I created the recipe as I went along. Using my new 'toaster' oven meant that the crust was browned.

Truly delicious bread with multi-grains, sourdough, pecans and love. I made a braid loaf and then eight rolls, but you can shape this any way that pleases you.

Multigrain Sourdough Pecan Bread

1 cup sourdough starter, fed with a mixture of 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup water
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup mixed rolled grains and flax seed (Bob's Red Mill is the brand I used)
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon dry yeast (I used RapidRise)
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup graham flour
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Let the sourdough starter and the feeding mixture, mixed, sit on the counter for 2 hours to ripen.

In a medium to large microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, place the mixed rolled grains and the water. Cook on high one minute. Stir, cook on high another minute. Stir, cook on high another minute, then let cook to lukewarm, stirring occasionally to even the cooling. Water will be completely absorbed by the cooked grain.

In a large mixing bowl for a stand mixer, place the ripe sourdough mixture, 1/2 cup flour, cooled grain mixture, mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup graham flour. Stir well to combine. Add the molasses and salt and stir again.

Mix the rest of the graham flour, the rest of the all purpose flour, and the dry yeast in a bowl or measuring cup. Put the dough hook onto the mixer, then mix, gradually adding the rest of the flour and graham flour mixture until dough is soft and dough starts cleaning the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Push the dough down to create roughly a rectangle about 10" by 12". Scatter half the pecans over the dough, then roll up like a jelly roll and fold the ends in. Again push the dough down to create roughly a rectangle about 10" by 12". Scatter the remaining pecans over the dough and roll up as before. Knead for a few minutes to distribute the nuts evenly through the dough.

Place the dough in a greased rising container, turning the dough over to coat with the grease/oil. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half. Shape as desired. I made one braided loaf and eight rolls, but you can make two loaves in loaf pans, two boules, a mixture, etc.

Lightly cover shaped bread and let rise while preheating the oven. Brush lightly with oil or egg or milk wash if desired, then bake until crust is browned and loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 45 minutes for a loaf and 25 minutes for rolls.

Try to let bread cool a bit before devouring.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Have had a sudden, unexpected death in the family; my youngest sibling. No posts for a while. Life is tenuous at best.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Cherish those who are with you this holiday season.

English Muffins with Nooks and Crannies with the Bread Baking Babes

The Bread Baking Babes have been baking close to ten years now, so it has gotten tricky to find breads that we haven't baked. This month I'm Kitchen of the Month, so finding a good recipe was a necessity. 

I was surprised to look at the list and not see English Muffins. I'm quite fond of English Muffins, but I grew up with Thomas's version and they always have 'nooks and crannies', the irregular air bubbles inside that, when split, make great places for the butter to collect after the muffin halves are toasted. My earlier attempts at making my own English Muffins were not successful in that department. The texture was like regular nooks and crannies to speak of, hence unacceptable.

Recently I discovered a recipe that seemed like it would solve that problem. It was found on the Serious Eats site and the blogger is Stella Parks. She combines bread flour and whole wheat flour, uses instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise), doesn't knead the dough, and lets the dough rise slowly, then puts dough blobs onto a bed of corn meal, sprinkles more on top, and lets that sit in the fridge at least 12 hours. Who knew that these steps would lead to excellent English Muffins?

After trying the recipe as written, I also tried to make a sourdough version with my sourdough starter. With a few variations of the recipe, that worked, too. The original version has a distinct honey flavor and you can taste the whole wheat. The sourdough version allows the sour flavor to shine so the honey and wheat are muted flavors. Both are delicious and worth your time. There are plenty of nooks and crannies!

To become a Buddy, and I hope you do, just bake these (well, actually you griddle them) and email me a photo and a short description of your experience making them, plus a link to your post if you posted about them. I'll send you a Buddy badge for your post at the end of the month. You have until November 29th to email me. My email is elle dot lachman at gmail dot com. I'll do a round-up post in early December and put something up on our Bread Baking Babes Facebook page, too. Come bake with us!

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes sites and see what they have done with this recipe. There are sure to be variations!

Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna

Bake My Day - Karen

English Muffins - from Serious Eats, Stella Parks,

Makes about twelve 3 1/2-inch muffins
ACTIVE TIME:20 minutes - TOTAL TIME:16 to 30 hours


·         10 ounces bread flour (2 cups; 285g)
·         5 ounces whole wheat flour (1 cup; 140g) (makes a more tender interior)
·         2 3/4 teaspoons (11g) kosher salt; for table salt, use the same weight or half as  much by volume
·         1 1/4 teaspoons (4g) instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
·         12 ounces cold milk (1 1/2 cups; 340g), any percentage will do (helps create nooks and crannies)
·         3 1/2 ounces honey (1/4 cup; 100g)
·         1 large egg white, cold
·         5 ounces fine cornmeal (1 cup; 145g)(I used twice as much and put muffins on two sheet pans with space around them - Elle), and more for dusting - don't skip this
·         Roughly 1 ounce bacon fat, unsalted butter, non-dairy margarine, or oil (2 tablespoons; 30g), for griddling

1. Make the Dough and Let Rise: In a large bowl, mix bread flour, whole wheat flour, kosher salt, and yeast together until well combined. Add milk, honey, and egg white, stirring with a flexible spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic and set aside until spongy, light, and more than doubled, 4 to 5 hours at 70°F. (The timing is flexible depending on your schedule.)

 For the Second Rise: Thickly cover a rimmed aluminum baking sheet with an even layer of cornmeal. With a large spoon, dollop out twelve 2 2/3-ounce (75g) portions of dough; it's perfectly fine to do this by eye. If you'd like, pinch the irregular blobs here and there to tidy their shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 42 hours.

3. To Griddle and Serve: Preheat an electric griddle to 325°F or warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. When sizzling-hot, add half the butter and melt; griddle muffins until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip with a square-end spatula and griddle as before. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time. Toast before serving and store leftovers in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature (or 1 month in the fridge).

Sourdough Version:
1 cup active starter fed with a mixture of 1 cup flour and 1 cup water...and allow it to sit at least 1 hour to activate the yeast. Add to flour mixture when you add liquid.

Same amount of whole wheat flour and salt as original recipe

1 teaspoon dry yeast, not larger amount of original recipe

1/2 cup milk, slightly warm, not 
larger amount of original recipe - I mixed the barely warm milk, the honey, and the egg white together before adding to the starter mixture, stirred, then added the flour.

The rest of the recipe is just the same, including the rest of the ingredients (honey, egg white, cornmeal, butter) and the directions.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Air Frying and Family Reunion

The air frying is from tonight, the family reunion happened at the end of October. Funny how some things get posted quickly and some not.

Since it's older news, I'll tell you first about the gathering. It was on a Sunday morning two weeks ago tomorrow. Sweetie's ex-wife, Chris, has always been a friend. They were one of the smart couples and figured out how to stay in each others' lives in a positive way. She babysat our kids and we babysat her son. Now she lives in St. Mary's county in Maryland, just as my brother does. They have never met, but we thought they might enjoy each other's company since there is a mutual love of sailing. Same for Chris's sister. Just to make it extra special, we also included Sweetie's niece from Baltimore and her daughter. Olivia is a freshman at St. Mary's, so she was already in the area. On a cloudy Sunday morning we all gathered at Chris's sisters home and had a true feast, mimosas, and lots of great conversation. The gathering included Sweetie and me, my brother, his wife and their two adult sons, Chris, her partner Patrick, Chris's son, his wife, and their toddler son, Chris's sister and her husband, Sweetie's niece and her daughter. Fifteen folks who are sort of family and who made some new contacts. Great fun and great food!

While we were in St. Mary's we also visited Old St. Mary's City, which is a combination of archeological dig and collection of buildings to invoke the spirit and substance of on of the first settlements in Maryland. One of my nephews works there and he not only showed us around, but managed to bring us there when there was a wonderful choral performance in the chapel for us to enjoy. Such beautiful music. It made us think of Sweetie's sister in Lexington and her sweetie, both music lovers. The chapel is built like the original chapel, with brick walls and a grand front, plus a barrel ceiling that provides great acoustics. (See photos above.)

We also met a fellow worker who tans hides and did a demo that day. It is a magical place and I wish we had had more time there. Maybe next time...

So air frying...I recently bought a new toaster oven that had air fryer capabilities, so I decided to dip my toe in the water and air fry frozen french fries before I got fancy. I chose sweet potato fries because Sweetie was going to be eating them and he loves sweet potato fries.

I set the temperature to 360 degrees F and once the oven had preheated, shook a serving of frozen fries into the basket. I cooked them for 14 minutes, with a good shake and some moving around of the fried happening at 5 minutes.

These were as good as oven baked french fries and maybe a bit better...crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Sweetie was very happy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Multi-Grain Cowboy Cookies

I've had the same toaster oven for a long, long time. It has finally gotten to the point where it doesn't work very well, so I started looking for a replacement. Recently the one I most wanted became available on sale online. It takes up some counter space, so I had been holding off for about 6 months, but seeing it at such a good sale price finally convinced me to buy it. It arrived day before yesterday in the evening, and yesterday I toasted some buns in it, just to try it at its most basic, but today I finally had time to bake some cookies in it. They were just beautiful and the browning is so much better than my big oven.

It's hard to know if the cowboys of old would have had a mixture of rolled grains to use in cookies, or even, frankly, if they had baked cookies while out on the trail herding cattle. Still, I recently purchased a bag of mixed-grain rolled grains, similar to oatmeal but with other grains like barley and rye, too. The brand is Bob's Red Mill and if you haven't tried any of their numerous grains, especially for gluten free baking, do think about buying some. They are always top quality and there seem to be a huge variety of offerings. Their barley flour is the first one I bought, for bread baking, but I like their corn meal, dark rye flour, almond flour, and others. This mixed rolled grain produce is also great for use in bread baking...just cook them in half as much water, and cool, then use as part of the water and part of the grain for a hearty bread.

For the cowboy cookies, I used the rolled grain mixture instead of the rolled oats. It made the cookies a bit chewier, and added flavor, too.

Multi-Grain Cowboy Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled multi-grains
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature (or margarine)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars, white and brown, until well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until light and well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts.
Cover dough and chill 1 hour.

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Form dough into balls, using a melon scoop of dough for each. Place on greased baking sheets, spacing cookies 1 inch apart. These will make appetizer size cookies. (For larger cookies, make balls from teaspoons of batter up to 1/4 cup of dough for super sized ones.) Bake 8-10 minutes for small cookies or until cookies are golden brown around the edges. transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. (For larger sized cookies, cook longer, up to 15 minutes.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Irish Soda Bread Reimagined

Yesterday Sweetie and I were invited to lunch at the home of friends who had been evacuated during the recent wildfires, but, fortunately, their house was spared and we were celebrating that. About two hours before we were to leave, Sweetie remembered that we had been asked to bring some bread...bread that I had made. With not nearly enough time for making yeast bread, I was trying to think of something that would work when Sweetie suggested Irish Soda Bread. It's a favorite of his and goes together fairly quickly.

I haven't made it for a while and this time I wanted to make it a bit savory to go with the lunch main dish of a luscious old fashioned chicken stew. Herbs seemed just the thing and I had some fresh Italian parsley on the windowsill, and some fresh thyme and rosemary on the porch in a planter. Still, it seemed a bit too ordinary. Then I decided to add a bit of crunch and lots of flavor with finely chopped pecans. A bit of graham flour added more flavor and the lemon juice I added to the soy creamer to sour it was the final touch. This was decidedly not my Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread, even if it started out with her recipe!

A key thing to remember if you make this is that this kind of bread works best with the least amount of handling. Stir just enough to blend dry into wet, then shape gently with your hands into a ball, tucking any dry bits underneath...they will get wet enough that way. Don't forget the traditional cross cut with a knife. It helps the center cook evenly with the rest of the loaf.

A big thank you to Deb and Jim for a great lunch. Best chicken stew ever, plus an interesting salad dressing that I'm going to post later, and delicious pecan pie cookie bars for dessert. Best of all, the friendship and great conversation.

Irish Soda Bread with Herbs and Pecans
based on Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread
makes one large loaf

2 cups (about) whole milk or soy creamer
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or graham flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. (1 stick) cold butter, in thin slices
½ cup pecans, chopped finely
¼ cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs - I used Italian parsley, thyme and rosemary

In a bowl combine the milk and the fresh lemon juice. Let sit to 'sour' the milk, at least 5 minutes.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl with the pecans and herbs; mix well. Dot all over with the butter and cut in well with a fork or pastry blender.

 Add the soured milk and mix just until moist - don’t over handle. You may need to add 2 - 4 more tablespoons of milk or a few tablespoons of flour.  Some dry stuff is OK but the dough should be sticky.

Pat into a round on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cut a cross on top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool a bit before slicing.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

These Apples

Our time with my younger brother and his family was relaxing and a nice change since, with the exception of mass family gatherings for birthdays and funerals (mostly), we have not spent time with the four of them and no other family.

Kate is a great cook and she made great, fresh, healthy food for us. One of the few things I made in her great kitchen was baked apples. No photos were taken because we were immersed in conversation and laughter, but I made baked apples again today, so I can share the recipe with you.

This is a really easy way to enjoy apples and this is apple season, so go big! Choose your favorite baking apple. I used Jonagolds but Cortlands and Galas work well, so do Pippins and Breaburns. The apple should have a nice apple flavor and hold some of its shape after baking. Gravensteins, for instance, would break down too much and be more like apple sauce. Many farmers markets have a selection of apples these days and you can ask which one would be best for baking.

If you like apple pie, but don't want the added fat and calories of the crust, these apples are for you.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Apples 
makes two, but can be doubled

2 medium to large baking apples, washed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
4 pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons butter or margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the core and seeds from the center of each apple, being sure to leave some apple intact at the bottom. I used a paring knife to remove the stem end, about halfway into the apple, then used a melon ball tool to remove the rest of the seeds. I left the apple below the seeds intact. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, walnuts and dates. Place each apple in a small baking dish large enough to hold it. I used two sizes of ramekins. If you are doing four apples, you might find an 8" square cake pan works. It's OK to have some room between apples, but they get soft, so you only should allow about 1/2 inch maximum between apples. Individual bakers solve that as long as they aren't too big or small. Experiment with what baking dishes you have before you fill the apples.

Place the cored apples in their baking dish(es) and fill the cavity with the brown sugar/spice mixture. Once they are filled, sprinkle any left over into the bottom of the baking dish(es). Put 1 teaspoon butter or margarine on top of the filled core cavity.  Add the water (I used 1/4 cup for each apple in it's individual dish) to the bottom of the dish, and then cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cut a small slit in the foil to let steam escape.

Place the dish(es) containing the apples on a baking sheet, then bake in the preheated over for 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced.

Serve warm or cold (with a splash of cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired).

Friday, November 03, 2017

Back From The Visit

It really is a luxury to be able to fly across the country and then to be able to drive around Maryland and Virginia and visit a whole raft of family and friends in different places. I am grateful to have those family and friends and to be able to go and for Sweetie for doing all the driving.

We started with a visit to my aunt who is only a year older than I am, a happy circumstance brought about by the remarriage of my grandfather. She and her hubby are always delightful to be with and we had a great lunch together. They were a bit mystified by Sweetie's obvious enjoyment of a sushi plate since sushi is not their favorite food. I enjoy sushi, so I was able to savor the tuna on the right at the bottom of the photo. Thanks Sweetie!

After a long, big-truck-filled drive on some interstates, we arrived in Lexington, Virginia, a beautiful old town with the Virginia Military Institute (which you drive through shortly after leaving the interstate) and Washington and Lee University, (which comes next). Being a college town there are lots of libraries and some great bookstores. They also have an indoor swim center which Sweetie's sister uses regularly to keep fit. We had a nice long visit with her and her partner. Their home is filled with beautiful art, lots of books and some nice antiques. I had fun cooking with her and we 'solved all the world's problems' with long stretches of conversation. I helped cook a few meals, but my camera was out of power, so no photos. This will become a bit of an ongoing theme this trip. Great food, but few photos of it.

Too soon were were back on the road, driving east through Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, and onward to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.

On tap next was a visit with my younger brother, his wife, and their two sons.We checked into our motel the Island Inn, and discovered that there was a water view and late afternoon sunlight streaming into the very comfortable, spacious room.

It was getting on towards evening, but we headed to my brother's home for Friday night dinner with the family. One of the evenings there I made some stuffed apples, but no photos. Sorry. Kate made delicious roasted veggies, cucumber salad, and served a local specialty, stuffed ham, which was delicious. One other night we had excellent chicken cooked on the grill by Jack.

During our stay in the area we had lots of great food. This included lunch at Courtney's an old time sort of fish place that my Dad would have felt most at home in. I had fried oysters that were absolutely wonderful! Had so much fun eating them and conversing with the fam that I forgot to take photos of the food. Here is one of the outside of the building.

Well, that's enough travelogue for now. More soon on a concert in Old St. Mary's and an unusual 'family' reunion.