Friday, April 27, 2018

Ready for Take Off

Spending a few days with family and specifically going to mourn and memorialize my youngest sister Beth, lost to us last November. Our dear nephew from SF, Straight Shooter, will be making sure that Pi has company while we are gone. Off to the Denver area! Probably won't be posting or looking at Facebook, etc. while gone.

Happy Spring!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Italian Almond Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers

We had a really nice group of cakes to choose from this month as the Cake Slice Bakers continue to bake from The Perfect Cake by America's Test Kitchen. #atkcake

There was the creamy sweetness of the Tres Leches Cake, the tang of lemon in the Lemon Pudding Cakes, wonderful almond flavor in the Italian Almond Cake and fun and pretty Confetti Cake.

I chose the Italian Almond Cake because I wanted a tea cake that I could enjoy over a few days and one that wasn't too complicated since my energy levels continue to be lower than usual.

In the photo that is with the recipe in the book you can see that with the Italian Almond Cake there is a nice crunchy crust with sliced almonds, and lemon sugar. The photo doesn't really show much of the interior of the cake, but mine had a lovely dense crumb, similar to a pound cake and it was really moist. There is plenty of almond flavor in this cake but it has a nice brightness from the lemon zest, too. I did use melted non-dairy margarine instead of butter, but otherwise I baked it exactly as written in the cookbook.

I'm not going to include the recipe since, if you like to bake cakes, this book is worth purchasing. It has all the classics, plus some new and different ones. Each recipe is well written and the Test Kitchen folks  have clearly tested and tested to come up with recipes that work and are delicious. I expect this to be a book I go to again and again over the years.

Be sure to check out the other Cake Slice Bakers posts, too.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen #atkcake.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

The choices this month were Tres Leches Cake, Lemon Pudding Cake, Italian Almond Cake, and Confetti Cake.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bread Madness

There is a certain kind of madness that sometimes takes over when a true baker discovers wild yeast and the whole art of sourdough. There is this feeling of 'so many breads to bake and so little time', so it is difficult to choose which one to bake first. Fermented flour, water and wild yeasts work together to create a starter that can be used to lift up and flavor entire loaves of delicious fresh bread. The best ones have a subtle tang that is a lovely counterpoint to the mellow wheat or rye flavors of the flour used in the bread. Bread Baking Babes are up for almost any bread baking, so here we go.

This month our wonderful, enthusiastic Kitchen of the Month Elizabeth of Blog from OUR Kitchen, has chosen a deep brown loaf that features sourdough starter, wheat and bran, a Lariano-style bread. This is a lovely choice! The methods used to create it are similar to the Polenta loaf we baked in January found HERE, so again be sure to allow plenty of time for the wild yeasties to do their magic. This kind of bread baking can be a method to use to de-stress, using the rhythms of feeding, kneading and folding and waiting for the next fold as a way to slow down and become in sync with a simpler way of living. The bonus is amazing bread that you didn't have to pay $10 for.       

That said, we had a rainy day recently and I had a yen for freshly baked bread, so I decided to see if I could bake this bread...well, my version of less than a day. I used some dried active yeast and flour and water to make a starter...not sour and not wild yeast, but still full of active yeasties. I mixed the first small starter with the Leavener ingredients called for in the recipe and let that sit and ferment until the float test worked. Then I used my stand mixer to mix the dough and I let it rise in my rising container, shaped it and let the round rise on a bran dusted sheet of parchment, pre-heated the cast iron dutch oven as the recipe directs and baked it in that with the lid on. The dutch oven had been placed on a baking stone, so when I took the lid off, I took the loaf out and placed it directly on the hot baking stone. This meant that my loaf had a very nice dark brown bottom crust. Not the same as a gorgeous dark brown top crust, but my oven really has a problem with getting top crusts really browned, so we had to go with the bottom one being dark brown.

This is a delicious bread with a full wheat flavor. My crumb is not as open as it would have been if I had taken the long way home, so to speak, but it was good bread and done before I went to bed...although not in time for dinner. In the morning I had some toasted to go with my one was spectacular. This makes great toast!

Thanks Elizabeth for a lovely recipe. When I have more patience I'll make it the slow way and I'm sure it will be even better.

To be a Buddy, make the bread (recipe follows), email Elizabeth with your URL and a photo and she will send you a cool Buddy Badge. Here is what Elizabeth wrote on her blog about being a Buddy:
"Lariano-style bread is delicious! And we know you'll want to make it! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make Lariano-style bread - remember that it only takes 5 days to create a starter - in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it - what you didn't like or what you liked) before April 29th. Please type "BBB April 2018 Bread" in the subject heading of your email.

Please not that it is not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Due to the ephemeral nature of Facebook's posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please email if you want to be included. Even if you don't have a blog, email Elizabeth to be included in the round up.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes to see the great breads that they baked this month!

Lariano-style Bread
based on the recipe for Truccio Sare' in The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey

35 gm room temperature water
5 gm 100% hydration starter from fridge (or mix 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast with 1/4 cup tepid water and let sit for 10 minutes, then mix in 1/4 cup flour and let sit at least an hour)
50 gem 100% whole wheat flour

20 gm leavener (the rest goes back into a jar in the fridge for another baking session)
275 gm room temperature water
100 gm whole wheat flour, sifted after weighing
4 gm wheat germ
10 gm flax seed, finely ground
290 gm unbleached all-purpose flour
25 gm room temperature water
8 gm salt

1) Leavener: On the evening before baking the bread, put the leavener ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Using your dough whisk or a wooden spoon, mix the leavener ingredients until all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave overnight in the oven with only the light turned on - until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse.

2) Dough: On the morning of the day you will be baking the bread: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener doesn't float, stir in a little more flour and water...even amounts by weight...cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Changes are that it will now float.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Set the bran aside for after shaping. Add wheat germ and ground flaxseed to the flour. Pour 275 gm (275 ml) room temperature water into the bowl. Add all the leavener. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the dough with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes. This resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.

3) Salt: In a small bowl whisk the salt into the final 25 gm (25 ml) room temperature water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.

4) Kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl. This way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

5) Stretching and folding: After 30 minutes after adding the salt, run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it's a little difficult to stretch the dough any more. You'll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for 30 minutes.

6) More Folding: Repeat the stretch and folding step 2 or 3 more times, leaving it to sit 30 minutes between folding sessions. Notice the dough starts to get billowy, soft and aerated with gas. Turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough as you get near the end. A well-developed dough releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. Volume will have increased by 20 to 30 percent. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the bowl. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be shaped.

At this point Elizabeth directs how to prepare a brot-form and how to shape using that. For those directions, please go to her blog.

7) Shaping: If you don't have a brotform, coat a parchment covered cookie sheet with bran. Shape the dough into a ball and place it seam side down onto the bran. Scatter a little more bran on top before covering the shaped loaf loosely with a clean tea towel. Let sit at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size.

8) Baking: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put either a covered cast-iron dutch oven or a cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl that fits it into the oven when you start to preheat it. The bread will bake in the dutch oven or skillet and the lid of the dutch oven  or the stainless steel bowl on top of the skillet will create a min-oven that will trap moisture and help the loaf rise. It usually takes about 15 minutes at a minimum to preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, place the parchment paper and loaf into the dutch oven or skillet and quickly use a lame, scissors, or a serrated knife to score the bread with a single line in the center. Use pot holders/oven mitts as the lid and pan will be very hot. Return covered pan to the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees F. Bake 60-80 minutes, removing the lid or bowl half-way through baking. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If desired, you can remove the bread when you remove the lid and let the bread cook on the oven rack or a baking stone.

9) Cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven, so let it cool. After it has cooled completely, turn the oven to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes, then turn it off. Put the bread in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Garicky Feast

Don't you love garlic? I guess not everyone does, but most of the people that I share food with do. I love it roasted with chicken, I love it minced and put into guacamole, I love it in all my favorite soups and stews and braises. I love it in mayonnaise, especially when it is fresh garlic mayo or aioli. This is a really easy sauce to make if you have a bender or food processor, but you can also purchase jarred aioli. My favorite is Stonewall Farms and I love their roasted garlic aioli.

I used that for an aioli feast a few nights ago. I first made aioli from scratch using a recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen many moons ago in the dark ages when it first was published. The recipe was included as part of a feast and I really loved having a large platter covered with steamed and fresh veggies, some fish or chicken, and lots of lovely garlicky aioli to spread liberally over it all. She wrote,"The traditional aioli supper consists of the central dish - garlic mayonnaise - surrounding cluster of freshly-steamed vegetables to dip."

For this version I steamed green beans, sugar snap peas, chunks of zucchini, and chunks of multi-colored carrots. I also reheated some roasted chicken. Then I used my small cast iron skillet to reheat some mashed potatoes, so they became a potato cake with browned crust. All of this went on a large platter with a bowl of aioli in the middle and we helped ourselves to some of each. I dipped the green beans into the aioli like you would dip French fries into ketchup or mayo. Sooo good.

Other additions that I've used in the past are quartered hard cooked, peeled eggs, cherry tomatoes, steamed asparagus spears, and red pepper strips. You may have other favorites like sardines or firm white fish, steamed brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, or baby artichokes. What ever you use, be sure that it is the best quality you can find and only cook it enough to bring out the flavor and should still have plenty of chew and character to it. Instead of the potato cake a great choice is steamed small red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes.

I recommend that you limit the feast to about 7 or 8 items or fewer. With more choices the flavors can become muddled as you eat your way through the various choices.

This is a great meal to share with friends...just increase the amounts of each veggie and fish or chicken and be sure to have plenty of that wonderful aioli!

"This recipe makes enough for an aioli supper for 4 people. It will amply cover four servings of fish...and there should be some extra for dipping potatoes or whatever your're serving with the fish. This only takes about 10 minutes to prepare." ~ Mollie Katzen in Moosewood Cookbook


1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tamari
3 medium cloves crushed garlic
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups oil (use all or part olive oil)

Combine the lemon juice, salt, tamari, garlic, egg and egg yolks in a blender and blend well at high speed.

Reduce speed to medium. Gradually drizzle in the oil. Don't just dump it in all at once. Keep the blender running at medium until all the oil is in. The mixture should be thick. Once it's thick, turn the blender off. If you beat it too long it will get thin again, which is not what you want.

Place finished garlic mayonnaise in a dish and on a platter and surround with steamed veggies of your choice and/or baked fish.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Spanish Style Chicken and Rice

This was one of my favorite meals when I was growing up. This is another braised dish, this time with chicken, onions and garlic, tomatoes, peppers, rice, sherry, saffron, cloves and peas. It is very aromatic and quite delicious. The rice soaks up the flavors of the veggies, sherry, saffron and cloves and the topping of hot peas and some pimento or roasted red peppers is colorful and finishes off this one pot meal. It's perfect for a chilly spring evening. It didn't take long to clean the plate.

My mother used to make this with a whole chicken, usually at least 2 and a half pounds of chicken. Since Sweetie and I are not a large family with eight children, I cut the recipe in half. I also used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which worked well. The thighs take well to braising and by being boned and skinless, the flavors penetrated the chicken really well. They may cook a little faster, too.

Arroz con Pollo (Spanish Chicken and Rice)

1 frying chicken (about 2½ lbs. ) cut up
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, chopped (I used yellow bell pepper)
1 can peeled tomatoes (19 oz.)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1-2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 pinch Spanish saffron
2 whole cloves
1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
1 cup peas, cooked and hot
1 pimento, cut up

Dry chicken pieces. If desired, season chicken with salt. Brown in hot oil. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper; brown 5 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients, except for rice, peas, and pimento.

Cover and simmer 15 minutes. 

Add rice. Bring to a boil, stir; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with peas and pimento. 

Serves 6 - 8.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Yam and Pork and Veggie Hash

Sweetie made a slow cooked pork roast on the BBQ a few days ago using a pork shoulder. It was a big one, so there was a lot left. Last night I made a kind of a hash using some of it. I didn't really have a recipe, but I've been looking at this kind of recipe for a while, so figured it couldn't be too difficult.

First I cooked some chopped onions over slow heat in a little olive oil. Later I added some diced celery, diced yellow pepper, and a sliced zucchini, cut into quarters and sliced. Once all the veggie were nicely cooked, I removed them from the pan and used the same frying pan to brown some diced pork roast. While all these were cooking, a nice fat yam was steaming to doneness. That, once cooked, was peeled and cut into a small dice. I put the dice on top of the pork and added seasonings: pepper, thyme, sage and garlic. Those cooked together a minute, then I flipped the mixture so the yam was on the bottom, then put the cooked veggie mixture over the top. With the pan covered, that cooked for a couple of minutes, then I flipped it all again and cooked it another minute. That was it...Pork and Yam Hash. Had it with a salad for a nice meal, then the leftovers (heated up) as the bed for a fried egg this morning for breakfast.

This one take some time with all the chopping and slow cooking, but it is worth it. The pork gets some crispy bits, the veggies are soft and delicious and, if you add the egg, it is almost comfort food.

I'm not going to give an actual recipe, but I used about 1 1/2 - 2 cups diced pork, 1/2 a yellow onion, 1 small zucchini, 1 stalk celery, about the same amount diced yellow pepper, 1 large yam...and an egg.