Sunday, December 31, 2023

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Wrapping Up 2023

This has been a year with fewer posts and, truly, less enthusiasm about baking. It isn't that I don't have good results, nor that my baking is unappreciated, but with only two of us to bake for...and neither of us needs the extra calories of my favorite baked's just not as high on my list of things to do.

I have been spending more time doing art, both watercolors and acrylics paintings. Most ordinary activities take longer than they used to, including the washing up after baking...or cleanup after painting. 

And then there are the hours and hours taken up with dealing with the non-acute but still time consuming medical stuff that goes along with aging, from wellness checks to PT to figuring out the ins and outs of poor sleep. Not only do you have to show up for visits, but more time is taken up with online sign-in, messages, video visits, dealing with pharmacies and new equipment like CPAP machines. Still, because of all of this care I'm doing pretty well overall and counting my blessings that it's true for both myself and Sweetie.

Soooooo, expect fewer posts, more posts about cooking than baking, and probably more posts about a certain upcoming wedding. Our daughter is taking the plunge in May and there are bound to be stories to go along with it!

If you get bored with the current blog, there are many, many (over a thousand at last count) recipes to see since I started in 2006. If you see this on your phone or tablet, you may have to scroll down to the last post seen and look below that for the "Web version" link...that version has the link to the recipe index. The link is the photo of a set table with a rust colored table cloth. Wander around the index, use the years listing on the web view (Blog Archive), or just keep scrolling down to see some of the recipes of this year and all the way to fall of 2006. 

Wishing you, dear reader, a good and as happy as possible New Year! Don't be a stranger.

Friday, December 29, 2023

A Family Favorite From Scratch - Salmon Loaf

 As the Friday cook in a Catholic family while I was growing up, I learned to cook a lot of fish dishes. Salmon Loaf Supreme was one of them. I loved to make this because once it was put together and into the oven, it took about an hour to bake. Baked potatoes could be put in the oven at the same time and, a little later, a chocolate pudding cake could join all these items so that there was a yummy dessert, too. A green salad or some steamed veggies added to the dinner plate was all that was needed, so I had some time to enjoy myself while all the dinner items baked.

We had some lovely salmon during the week before Christmas, but there were leftovers, so I thought of ways to use them up. My first thought was salmon chowder, but then I remembered salmon loaf. Sweetie loves it and the warm oven warms the house, too, a consideration when it is cold and rainy out. The only problem was that I didn't have the condensed cream of mushroom soup the recipe calls for. Guess I get to make my own!

The Joy of Cooking cookbook has a cream sauce recipe that sounded like it would make a thick cream sauce that would work. I used leftover bacon grease for the fat, chopped fresh mushrooms, celery, and onion to cook in the bacon grease for the appropriate flavor and veggies, and used slightly more flour than for a regular cream sauce. Now that I can use regular milk, the sauce didn't have sweetness that sometimes comes with using nut or soy or coconut milk, so the sauce was savory and delicious. I added some chopped parsley, too, plus salt and pepper. No red pepper on hand, so I skipped that. Bread crumbs add stability, as do the egg. Lemon zest and juice add zing. The salmon had the skin removed and I then shredded it with my hands to flakes. All this took far longer than just using canned soup, canned salmon, and some bread crumbs and lemon, which is what the recipe I used as a child had. Helps me understand why housewives in the 50s were so taken with using commercial canned goods - much less work!

This salmon loaf was head and shoulders above my childhood loaves! The salmon flavor was fresh and robust, the texture was more tender and overall it was more enjoyable. Sometimes it's easier to do it the hard way, as Max used to say.

Below is the original recipe and then the variation I did this time. Feel free to make either one. Sometimes it just depends on if you have the ingredients on hand or more time to play in the kitchen.

Salmon Loaf Supreme

½ Cup salad dressing
1 Cup  diluted condensed cream of celery soup
1 egg, beaten
½ Cup chopped onion
¼ Cup chopped green or red pepper
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 Cup flaked salmon (pink or red)
1 Cup fine bread crumbs

 Combine first seven ingredients and mix well. Add the salmon and bread crumbs and combine well. Pack into a greased 4” x 8” x 2” loaf pan; bake 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Turn out of pan into platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve. Serves 6-8

From Scratch Salmon Loaf Supreme

½ Cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
Cream Sauce with mushrooms, celery and onion (see below)
1 egg, beaten
¼ Cup chopped green or red pepper (optional)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 Cup flaked cooked fresh salmon (pink or red), skin removed (ours was grilled)
1 Cup fine bread crumbs or stale baguette crumbs, ground fine in food processor

 Combine first eight ingredients and mix well. Add the salmon and bread crumbs and combine well. Pack into a greased 4” x 8” x 2” loaf pan; bake 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Turn out of pan into platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve. Serves 6-8

Cream Sauce with Mushrooms, Celery, and Onion

3 Tablespoons bacon grease or butter
1/2 pint fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and diced
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1/2 Cup chopped onion
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Cup milk (I used whole but reduced fat is fine)
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

 Saute' mushrooms, celery and onion in the hot bacon grease in a medium pot. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the milk all at once and stir vigorously to combine with the slurry in the pot until well combined and any part sticking to the bottom of the pan has been incorporated. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Should be about the consistency of condensed soup. Use in Salmon Loaf Supreme recipe.

Friday, December 22, 2023

A Couple of December Food Photos

Sweetie and I were given a wonderful early gift of a soup mix and recipe in a quart jar. It made a delicious mixed bean soup with veggies, and then I added some extra frozen mixed vegetables. Since I don't have the quantities of the ingredients, or even what all the ingredients were, no recipe for this one, but I wanted to show you what a beautiful soup it was.

The second photo is from a tart that was made today, mostly by my soon-to-be grandson R, with a little participation by me. The last time he was here, in the summer, we made a free form fruit pie, the kind that you fold the dough over the edges of the fruit and fold it as you go. This time it seemed like he was ready for a bit more challenge, so we did the tart. The recipe can be found HERE. It's a great recipe to have because the tart dough is made in a food processor and is super easy. Also, it's wonderful because you can make it with canned apricots. I keep a bag of almond flour in the fridge and if you do, too, you can make this tart almost any time. No canned apricots? Try canned peaches or tart cherries in their juice...not cherry pie filling, but the actual cherries. Fresh fruit like raspberries or strawberries would work, too. Of course you still need to have butter, sugar, flour, confectioners sugar, salt, eggs, and almond extract  along with that almond flour, but if you are a baker those things are usually in your pantry and fridge.

This tart is absolutely delicious, easy to make, rich but light, and looks really impressive while being pretty easy to, a winner, right?

I was impressed by R's approach to making the filling...he did that part all on his own while I peeled the skin off the canned apricots. First he read the recipe, then he made sure he had all the ingredients on the counter, then he asked about measuring cups and spoons and how to attach the beater. THEN he started to make the filling. He will be taking a semester cooking and baking class starting in January and I suspect that he will do very well...of course I might be biased!

Wishing you, dear reader, a very happy Christmas. May your days be filled with fun with those you love, good food, good conversations, and someone willing to do the dishes.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

A Bread To Love


This is going to be my last Bread Baking Babes bread for a while, because I find that I don't make bread much anymore and Sweetie has no willpower to not eat fresh bread and is happy I'm baking less. Better for our waistlines, too. I'll still be blogging and checking on the 16th of each month to see what the others have been up to...and you should too.

The good news is that I'm Kitchen of the Month for December 2023 and I chose a wonderful bread - Fougasse. This one is often called Leaf Bread, too, because the bread is shaped like a large leaf (or Christmas tree!) and you cut the leaf veins so that this sort of flat bread looks like a leaf and tears or breaks apart for sharing very easily.

I made two versions of fougasse for this challenge. The first, which ended up being shaped similar to a Christmas Tree, was with chopped rosemary and topped with more rosemary and with sea salt. It makes your house smell delicious as it bakes and is quite tasty.

The second fougasse was shaped like a verrrry wide square-ish leaf and was flavored with both chopped walnuts and crumbles of blue cheese. That made a nice combination and went well with our bean soup. That's the photo at the top. You can see that it's an unusual shape for a leaf...and that the blue cheese melted and ran, which made it taste even better, I assure you.

The recipe given makes enough dough for 4 fougasse of about 450 grams each. Before you decide to cut the recipe in half or quarters, remember that if your fridge has room, this dough can sit in your fridge for many days, getting a better flavor each day, so you can bake the four loaves over a week or so and have lots of fresh, delicious, fragrant bread.

Fougasse is pretty flat but it should be fairly fluffy inside but it does have a lot of thin crustiness because of the cuts that create the veins. 

If you bake along with us and want to be a Buddy, be sure and email me your URL and a photo and a short description of your bake and I'll send you a Buddy badge. You have until Dec. 29th to get that to me at plachman -at-sonic-dot-net.

Be sure to check out the bakes that the other Babes have done, too. We have a very creative and supportive group and I will miss the monthly bakes and especially the bakers!

I forgot to mention that this bread makes a great gift, too...which is handy as it is gift giving season.

Let's think about baking this...You can use sourdough starter or dry yeast, you can flavor it with rosemary and sea favorite...but you could use other seasonings like oregano, basil, lemongrass...or use seeds like poppy seeds or sesame seeds to enhance the bread. Consider adding cheese, like a good strong blue cheese, and maybe some walnut pieces. Maybe you would like citrus zest added, or perhaps olives.

Let's see what you come up with. The basics of the challenge are to make a leaf shaped, slashed bread, preferably with the recipe(s) below, but you decide the shape, flavorings, and if you will use sourdough starter or not.

Fougasse with Rosemary and Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water (not hot), divided
2 cups bread flour, divided

Mix together 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup bread flour in a bowl. Cover lightly and let sit for 1 hour. Add an additional 1 cup lukewarm water and add additional cup bread flour and mix until all new ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for at least an hour for flavor (or refrigerate overnight, then bring to room temperature).

all of Preferment
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup water, divided
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil from brushing
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 - 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary for top of dough
1-2 tablespoons sea salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the Preferment.  Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix briefly just until the oil is mixed in.

Make sure the water for the dough is lukewarm, not hot. Take 1/4 cup of it and add the dry yeast in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the rehydrated yeast, the rest of the warm water, and about half the flour (2 cups) to the mixture in the stand mixer bowl. Mix with the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook. On slow speed add the remaining flour, a half cup or so at a time, adding only a few tablespoons at a time toward the end. The dough will be soft. Add the salt and then knead with the dough hook on low to medium low speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is smooth. If necessary, add up to an additional cup flour so that dough is soft but firm. Turn kneaded dough out on a lightly floured board or counter and knead a few turns to make sure all flour is incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball. With the remaining tablespoon olive oil, oil a large bowl and turn the dough ball in the oil to coat. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a clean shower cap and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. This usually takes a couple of hours but check often. Dough is ready when a finger poked into the dough leave an indent that stays.

Shaping: About an hour before baking the fougasse, punch dough down, and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead a few times to get rid of the extra trapped gas. Divide it into four pieces weighing about the same. Take one of the pieces and knead in the chopped fresh rosemary, then press it out into a leaf shape. Use your clean hands to press it to about 10-11-inches on a side and about 1/2 - 1-inch high. Wet hands if necessary, so that dough doesn't stick. (I shaped it into a tall triangle.)

Place the shaped dough onto a piece of baking parchment which has been placed on a baking sheet. Using a bench scraper or stiff plastic scraper or something similar, cut into the dough to make leaf 'veins' - see photo at top of post. Use your fingers to gently spread out the dough to open up the cuts. Keep the leaf shape. Repeat if desired with the other pieces of dough, making four leaves, which can be flavored differently if desired, or store rest of dough, covered, in fridge, until ready to use.

Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, oiled side down, and let rise for about 30 minutes. Leaf will get puffy. If holes close up, gently open them again with your fingers after removing the plastic wrap.

While leaf is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in to preheat too.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the surface of the leaf with olive oil, then sprinkle with some fresh rosemary and sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden brown. Remove from oven, cool a bit on a wire rack after having removed it from pan and parchment. Serve while still warm, breaking off pieces of the leaf, or cutting into portions.

Don't care for rosemary and sea salt? Just replace those with your favorite enhancements.

or, for Sourdough:

Sourdough Fougasse
2 cups 100% hydration sourdough starter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup water, divided
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
additions like cheese, nuts, herbs, citrus peels, olives, etc.

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the sourdough starter. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix briefly with the paddle attachment just until the oil is mixed in.

Make sure the water is lukewarm. Take 1/4 cup of it and add the dry yeast. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the yeast, the rest of the warm water, and about half the flour. Mix with the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook. On slow speed add the flour, a half cup or so at a time, adding only a few tablespoons at a time toward the end. The dough will be soft. Add the salt and then knead with the dough hook on low to medium low speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is smooth. Turn out on a lightly floured board or counter and knead in most of the rosemary, leaving about a teaspoon for the top.

Form the dough into a ball. Oil a large bowl (not metal) and turn the dough ball in the oil to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. It took mine four hours, but even my 'warm' place wasn't as warm as it should have been.

Punch dough down, turn out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times to get rid of the extra trapped gas.

Use the Instructions for Shaping and Baking in the recipe above.

Elizabeth gave us the recipe to include weights. I'm a complete fool when it comes to conversions, but I think Elizabeth knows what she is doing. Thank you Elizabeth!

(for 4 fougasses)

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast [0.75 grams]
2 cups lukewarm water (not hot), divided [480 grams?]
2 cups bread flour, divided [240 grams]

all of Preferment [720 grams?]
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided [50 grams]
1 cup water, divided [240 grams]
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast [0.75 grams]
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour [480-660 grams]
2 teaspoons salt [12 grams]

2-3 tablespoons olive oil from brushing
1-2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1-2 tablespoons sea salt for sprinkling

2 cups 100% hydration sourdough starter [720??? grams]
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided [50 grams]
1 cup water, divided [240 grams]
[strike]1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast[/strike]
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour [480-660 grams]
2 teaspoons salt [12 grams]
additions like cheese, nuts, herbs, citrus peels, olives, etc.

If I were going to make a wild version, I think I might be a bad BBBabe and try following this previous wild yeast one I made, but leave out the poppy seeds:

Karen converted the starter, flour and salt for half the original recipe to grams. Thank you Karen!
1 cup starter = 227 to 241 grams
2 to 2 3/4 cups flour = 240 to 330 grams (I used 260 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt = 6 gram

Cathy of Bread Experience has a great post which includes instructions and photos for shaping, as well as a delicious spelt and asiago cheese version!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Great Cookie Gift

For years I've been making a wonderful chocolate shortbread cookie that is rolled and cut out, but this year I had a request for a Ted Lasso type shortbread cookie...pretty much a Scottish type vanilla shortbread that are cut into fingers after baking. They look plain, but are wonderful! In the photo above, the one at the top left is turned on the side to show you the texture inside...cut this way they are about the same width as height.

I looked at quite a few recipes and found that there are very few variations and that's a good thing. I based mine on some from the Internet, but made a few changes, as I often do.

This shortbread depends on the flavor of the ingredients, especially the butter, so indulge if you can by buying European has a higher butterfat content, too. The end results are tender fingers that almost melt in your mouth. They are not too sweet, especially if you go easy on the sugar topping as I did. The internet recipes called for a tablespoon or more of granulated or raw sugar to be sprinkled on top, either before or after baking. I only used a teaspoon of granulated sugar. That was just right in my opinion.

The great thing about this cookie is that you make the dough in a food processor, so it is quick, and there are so few ingredients that it's ready in no time. You do, however, need to chill the dough in the baking pan for at least half an hour. This helps the butter stay cold at the beginning of the bake.

One of the changes I made was to use part granulated sugar and part confectioners sugar in the dough. The confectioners sugar contains some cornstarch and is traditional for shortbread, but the Ted Lasso recipes pretty much used all granulated sugar. I guess mine is a compromise.

These can be addictive, so consider giving at least half of them as gifts, or put them on a cookie tray at a party. Of course you might be the rare individual who can parcel them out one at a time to themselves over the rest of December. If that's you, save them all for yourself!

Regular shortbread Cookies
Makes 18 or 24 depending on how you cut them

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, strained
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1) Fit the food processor with a steel blade and place the dry ingredients in the bowl. Cut the cold butter into ½-inch slices over the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Cover and process until the ingredients hold together. Remove the dough from the food processor. Form the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly.

2 ) Prepare and 8"x 8" baking pan by lining with parchment with a couple inches over the sides for handles. Place the dough in the pan and push out to fill pan, including corners. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and then use a spatula or short dowel to flatten the dough evenly. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Remove from fridge and remove plastic wrap.

3)   While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust racks to middle or lower middle. Bake as soon as possible after removing dough from fridge.

4) If desired, sprinkle an additional teaspoon of granulated or raw or turbinado sugar over the pan, evenly.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until cookies are firm to the touch. The top will be a light golden brown. Place pan on a rack to cool. While cookies are still hot, cut into rectangles of desired size. (I cut them in half one way and into thirds the other way, then cut four cookies from each rectangle.

5) Once cookies are cool, use parchment 'handles' to remove the whole cookie from the pan to a cutting board. Using the pre-cut marks, cut again for sharp sides. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Wishing you, dear reader, a magnificent turkey day...and lots of turkey with all the trimmings.

One of the trimmings is often cranberry sauce. The tart and sweet condiment offsets the mild comfort food flavors of turkey, dressing, mashed and/or sweet potatoes and even the creaminess of the green bean casserole...all fairly traditional Thanksgiving foods.

I grew up with the jellied kind in the can and I still love that version, but this year I had a bag of fresh cranberries, an orange, a cinnamon stick and enough time to make my own sauce.

Because cranberries carry a lot of natural pectin, making a sauce that thickens up without additional gelatin is easy and fairly quick...about 15-20 minutes total. I looked at a number of recipes online, then crafted this one to suit myself. Besides the fresh cranberries and the orange, I used water, brown sugar, and bourbon. It's a great mixture!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Bourbon
Serves 4-6

1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
zest of about 1/4 of an orange, zest cut into long strips
additional water as needed

In a saucepan, place the cranberries, brown sugar, water, bourbon, cinnamon stick, and orange zest strips. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat so that mixture simmers. Continue to cook, stirring every minute or so, until the berries begin to pop. Use a wooden spoon or similar tool to both stir the mixture and to push the berries up against the side of the pan to mash them a bit. Continue until most of the berries are mashed, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and continue to stir and let the berries cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the mixture starts to get thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and the orange zest strips and discard them. Remove the sauce from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add water, a tablespoon at a time until desired thickness. Put into a bowl or storage container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Below is a photo of the sauce with our Thanksgiving meal. Not the best photo because it was taken with an overhead light, not sunlight, but it gives a sense of the meal...which was delicious!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Babes Bake Shio Pan - Japanese Salt Bread

This month our wonderful Kitchen of the Month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, treated us to a great recipe for beautiful rolls with a topping of sea salt or seeds. I really like this recipe because it only makes 6 rolls, although I suspect that you could easily double it to make 12. There are only two of us, so small quantity recipes work well.

The dough comes together easily, with cold water and cold milk making it easy even if you have forgotten to think about the dough until it's time to make it...oops. There is a small quantity of soft butter, too, but we had a butter dish on the counter, so there was enough soft butter there. You do need bread flour, but I always have some of that on hand.

One of the fun things about these rolls is that a matchstick of butter is rolled up in the fat end. Use the best butter you can find. I used some European butter I bought just for this recipe. It really makes the finished rolls luxurious. I didn't curve them much since I was trying to fit all of them on a 12-inch pizza pan.

The dough is easy to work with. I found that stretching the dough into a thin triangle for the shaping worked well if I grasped the tip and let the heavy part of the dough (the part that would be wide) hand down and let gravity do some of the stretching. When it was long enough, I put it on the floured work surface and stretched the bottom dough wide enough for the butter stick, plus a bit for sealing. Here the rolls are after being shaped, all ready for their rise before baking.

Because I wanted to bake these for the morning, I did everything up to and including the rise after shaping, then put the rolls in the fridge overnight. In the morning I let them warm up while the oven preheated. After they had warmed a puffed a tiny bit more, I brushed the tops with egg wash and added the sea salt topping. In my experience a water spray just doesn't hold the topping, plus the egg wash gives the rolls a nice shine and helps with browning. The bake itself is quick. By the way, I skipped the parchment paper, putting the rolls directly on the baking sheet. They did leak a bit of butter during the bake. It helped crisp up the bottoms of the rolls and soaked into the middle, plus it left a tunnel to be filled with jam, if desired. In this photo you can see the tunnel the melted butter left.

 If I were worried about that, I could let them rise a bit more before putting in the fridge, then bake them cold from the fridge.

These really are pretty simple little breads and worth the time it takes for the various steps. They are soft and very buttery! Thank you Karen for a recipe that will likely be used again over and over. 

Want to be a Buddy? Bake the bread, post about it, and send a photo, the URL and a short description of your bake to Karen by 11/29 to get a Buddy Badge and to be included in the round-up.

Do visit the other Babes sites to see their take on this lovely bread roll.

Shio Pan, Japanese Salt Bread
yield: 6 rolls


210 grams bread flour

10 grams granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

70 grams cold milk

70 grams cold water

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

60 grams butter, cut into 6 x 10 gram strips as pictured. 

Flaked sea salt for topping



Whisk together the bread flour, sugar, sea salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk and water.  With a wooden spoon or dough whisk stir in half the flour mixture until just combined. Add the softened butter in tiny bits and half the remaining flour. Use the dough hook to knead it or knead it in by hand. Add the remaining flour.

Knead the dough by hand (using pressing, stretching, and folding constantly) or by stand mixer for about five minutes, until smooth. The dough will be fairly sticky but don't add more flour unless your kitchen is super humid or the dough is too soft to handle. If adding additional flour, do so sparingly. 

Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your room temperature. 

Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface and form it into an 1/2 inch thick round disk. 

Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces with a bench scraper. If possible use a scale to make them close to the same number of grams.

Roll each piece of dough into a cone, pinching the seam, and let rest, covered with a tea towel, for 10 minutes. 

With your hands, press each to de-gas. Shape each into a very long, thin triangle using gravity or a rolling pin, or a combination. Lightly brush each triangle with melted butter. Place a 10 gram butter stick on the wide end and roll up the dough and form it into a crescent. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Here is what the butter sticks look like. Each is pretty close to 10 grams. Your scale will get a workout with this recipe!

Repeat with the remaining dough. You will have six rolls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes to an hour, in a warm spot. 

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. 

Here are my rolls after being given an egg wash and sea salt on top after they rolls had warmed up after being removed from the fridge:

When ready to bake, spray the shaped rolls with water until they are shiny (or with egg wash as I did). Sprinkle each with a pinch or so of flaked sea salt or some seeds like sesame or poppy seeds. 

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly golden on top and crispy and browned on the bottom. 

Transfer to a wire rack. 

These are best warm from the oven or within two hours. You can rewarm leftovers the same day to refresh them. Wrap and freeze additional leftovers for reheating in the oven the next day. 


Monday, November 13, 2023

Tea Bread To Share...Again

My last post was for a spicy, moist, delicious gingerbread that you can bake in smaller pans, which make it easy to share. As we start gearing up for the holidays, I hope to post some more sharable baked goods so that you can choose to bake a small goodie as a gift for friends, family and neighbors instead of spending money buying them something. People truly appreciate gifts that are long as they are also tasty.

This time the gift is for family members, but it works just as well for friends and neighbors. The batter for this yummy pumpkin chocolate chip bread was baked in four small loaf pans. Each little loaf will yield slices to go with a hot beverage like coffee, tea, or cocoa. Since the family members who will be receiving theses little pumpkin delights have a tradition of afternoon coffee with a little something sweet, I suspect the little loaves will be gone in no time!

This recipe goes together quickly. Be sure to divide the batter evenly between the pans and don't over-bake. I would suggest checking them at least 5 minutes before they are supposed to be done. Have some foil handy to cover them if the tops seem to be browning too quickly. 

Pumpkin Nut Bread…with Chocolate
Makes 1 loaf

                                                        Large Loaf

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan or four small loaf pans. (I used a baking spray that includes flour.)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (both flours, soda and powder, spices).

Put the pumpkin, brown sugar, milk and eggs in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients and begin to combine. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix just until all are well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

If baking the four small loaf pans, divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan(s) five minutes, then turn out of pan(s) and cool top side up on a cooling rack.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Spicy Medicine Cake

I love the idea of food as medicine. Since I personally found that more turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and garlic, among other anti-inflammatory substances, helped tremendously in healing my gut, I know that those spices and allium can really help.

A dear neighbor of mine shattered her wrist on the soccer field, so when she had surgery to fix it, I made this dark, moist, spicy gingerbread to take to her that evening, to help with the healing process. She loved it so much that another small cake went to her the next day to keep those anti-inflammatories strong! We laughed about it being medicine, but there is an element of reality to that claim.

Even if you just want to enjoy this gingerbread as a simple dessert, it is worth making. There are three kinds of ginger in it; powdered ginger, fresh ginger, and candied ginger. The ginger is aided by cinnamon and the spiciness is enhanced with the addition of cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, all tied together with molasses and dark brown sugar. The secret ingredient?...stout. It adds a depth of flavor and slight bitterness so you know that this isn't any old's good for what ails you...or at least for zinging your taste buds. 

The recipe calls for baking this in a Bundt pan, but I have a pan that has four smaller Bundt cake wells and it takes just the same amount of batter. The advantage is that you end up with sharable cute cakes. The disadvantage is that all the tiny indentations that make up the patterns of those little cakes are the devil to wash completely clean! Use whatever pan you have that will hold the batter. The smaller cakes took less than 30 minutes to bake. The regular Bundt pan takes close to an hour, or maybe a little more, depending on the accuracy of your oven.

Triple Ginger Gingerbread
Adapted from
Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
from Epicurious

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Another Blog Birthday

2006 seems like a really, really long time ago. That was the October when I began posting on this blog. If you had asked me at the time, I'm sure I wouldn't have expected to still be posting. 

Still, it has become over time what a blog is sort of expected to be, a place not only for writing and posting recipes and joining groups with similar interests, but a place that tracks the seasons, that records life events and, perhaps most unexpectedly from my perspective, a place that allows me to revisit the past and re-experience what I was feeling then as I read the older posts. 

 You, dear reader, have been the reason that it stays interesting and meaningful to me. You comment or at least stop by. Sometimes you don't comment but I hear from you other ways and I know that, for whatever reason, this blog is a place where you see what I am up to. 

 At the moment, we are not doing any projects, nor contemplating any, which is the first time since Sweetie retired. I'm still enjoying my watercolor and acrylic pieces, still having fun with friends and with my P.E.O. work, and still, most of the time, finding pleasure in cooking and baking new-to-me things. 

 Let's enjoy the coming year together! 

 P.S. You get extra points if you know what the photo means.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Muffins with Quince and Pecans

When I realized that I still had poached quince in the fridge and that it needed to be used, I went to various cookbooks and then to the index for this blog. It's easy to access the Index...just click on the photo of the table set with a rust tablecloth. It's on the right in the web view of the blog.

In the section with the oldest recipes I found Playful Banana Muffins and, after reading the recipe, I decided that this recipe, which had already had a big makeover, would get another makeover...this time with quince!

This is a lovely muffin. It's moist from the fruit, laced with chopped pecans and small pieces of quince, fragrant with the quince and orange zest and vanilla, and it has a nice crumb. I'm so glad that I made this recipe. It makes a full 12 muffins, plus a small loaf pan's worth of deliciousness. One of these muffins and a cup of tea go really well together.

No quince? You can substitute ripe pear and it will work just fine. Peel and core the pear, making sure to also remove the stem parts. Dice the fruit and make sure you have 2 cups worth. Pears range in size so much that you will probably need about 6. The same is true for the quince...about 5-6 will work. I boiled mine for about 10 minutes to soften the skin, peeled and cored them, then poached at a simmer in water which also had 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and two whole cloves. Be sure to drain and then chill the poached quince.

I do hope you make these muffins with either quince or pears for a celebration of fall bounty!

Quince Pecan Muffins
Based very loosely on Raisin Bran muffins in the King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

2 cups poached quince, diced small (about 1/2-inch)
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin and a mini-loaf pan by spraying with baking spray or by greasing and flouring them. Set aside.

Check the quince for liquid. If necessary, dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large mixing owl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and orange zest. Add the quince and pecans and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oats.

Quickly, with as few strokes as possible, us a large spoon, wooden spoon, or large flexible spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups with the mixture, filling each cup almost to the top. Pour the rest of the batter into the prepared mini-loaf pan, using a spatula to clean the bowl of batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 14-18 minutes for the muffins, or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle, and for about 25 minutes for the mini-loaf pan quince bread, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove when ready from the oven. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool until ready to serve, or serve at once. If desired, serve with butter, cream cheese, or apricot jam.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Pumpkin Swirl Cake Decadence

Do you ever see a new recipe that you just know you have to try, as soon as possible? I do more often than you might think. A short while ago I saw this recipe from King Arthur Baking and knew that I had to make it soon, while pumpkin season is here. 

This is a lovely, moist, fragrant marble cake. The original recipe was for a cake made in a loaf pan, even a decorative loaf pan with pumpkins design on top. I needed a sheet cake for a luncheon I was going to, so I tripled the recipe and made it in two 9x13-inch pans. Then I truly made it decadent by topping the cakes with Lori's Cream Cheese Icing, which is the best cream cheese frosting you ever had.

The cake is a vanilla cake, but partway through the making of the batter, you divide the batter into two, then add pumpkin and pumpkin spice to one half and sour cream to the other half. Batter is dolloped into the pans alternately, then you swirl it with a skewer or chopstick. That way each piece has some dreamy vanilla-sour cream cake and some fragrant pumpkin cake. It is impressive looking and made quite a hit with the women who were at the luncheon. Of course I decorated the cakes with seasonal sprinkles and candy corn, but you can use whatever decorations you like.

If you'd like the recipe for just the loaf pan size cake, you can find it HERE on the King Arthur Baking site. The recipe below is for two 9x13-inch cakes plus enough Cream Cheese Icing to frost each of those cakes, plus a bit more for decoration if you like...or for putting between pumpkin cookies or between graham get the idea!

Pumpkin Swirl Cake
Makes two 9x13-inch cakes
Recipe from King Arthur Baking

6 eggs
3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vanilla
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
6 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (See Note at bottom)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Grease and flour two 9x13-inch baking pans...with at least 2-inch sides. Set aside

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add oil gradually, beating continuously. Stir in the vanilla, baking powder and salt. Gently mix in the flour, scraping sides and beaters as needed, until completely mixed. Batter will be stiff.

Transfer half of the batter  to another bowl...about 3 cups...and mix in the pumpkin puree and the pumpkin spice. Set aside.

To the vanilla batter, add the sour cream and beat to incorporate. Scrape down sides and beaters if needed and mix a bit more.

In the prepared pans, dollop about 1/4 cup one batter, then 1/4 cup the other batter and continue doing that to create a checkerboard effect in the pan. Repeat with the other pan. Once all of the batter is in the pans, use a skewer or chopstick to swirl figure eights across the checkerboard pattern. Only a few are needed...resist doing too many or you will lose the separation of the batters that makes the cake so lovely.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cake springs back when center is pushed gently. Tester inserted will come out clean. Cool on wire racks 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans, or, if preferred, leave in the pan and serve from the pan once frosted and decorated.

Note: No pumpkin pie spice? Make your own:
5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

Let cool completely before icing. Use your favorite buttercream or the following Cream Cheese Icing.

Lori's Cream Cheese Icing
Makes enough for two 9x13-inch cakes, plus extra for decoration or another use

2 sticks butter, softened
24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter, cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla together until fluffy. Gradually mix in powder sugar. Towards the end, add 1/4 cup at a time until you reach you desired texture and taste.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Rolling with the Babes


Now that it's fall, the menu changes around here. There is less grilled food and more meals that are comfort foods, like stews and braises and soups. A great accompaniment to those kinds of dishes are bread rolls. Especially with stews and braises, the roll can be torn into pieces and those pieces used to capture the delicious stew gravy and braise juices at the bottom of the bowl or the edges of the plate.

The Bread Baking Babes are right in line with that seasonal change. This month our Kitchen of the Month is Cathy of Bread Experience and our challenge is to bake Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls.

As usual, I’m making  changes to the recipe. Turns out that I don’t have any rye flour, although I really thought that I did. Instead I’m using barley flour, plus a small amount of Irish whole meal wheat flour, and a couple teaspoons of ground flax seed.

It’s seems odd to dip the bottoms of the rolls in rolled oats when there aren’t any in the rolls themselves, but I did follow that part. I used some French fleur de sel for the salt part on top, which I applied after scoring the tops.

I added a couple of tablespoons of water to the polish since I used yeast, not sourdough starter. I bake bread so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to have a starter going.

If you decide to bake these lovely rolls, and want to be a Buddy, e-mail Cathy and include a photo, your URL, and a short description of your bake experience. She needs that by Oct 30 to include it in the roundup.

Be sure to visit the other Babes websites to see their fun with Sigteboller!

These rolls are delicious- especially the tops with the extra salt. I like the chewy texture. Next time will probably skip the rolled oats - they didn’t seem to add much.

Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls

Makes 8-9 rolls (70grams each)


24 grams rye flour

40 grams all-purpose flour 

64 ml water

10 grams (1 teaspoon) sourdough starter or a pinch of yeast

Final dough. 

96 grams rye flour

160 grams all-purpose flour 

175-200 ml lukewarm water

3 grams instant yeast

6 grams sea salt

12 grams dark molasses 

Topping: Rolled oats, sea salt 

Mix the polish

The evening before you plan to bake the rolls, combine the flours, water, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine and allow to restart warm room temperature for 14-16 hours, or overnight. It should expand and have bubbles.

Mix the dough 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, add the rye flour, all-purpose flour, water, and poolish to the bowl.Mix on low until there are no dry bits of flour. Allow the dough to rest for 45 minutes (autolyse). Note: Start with 150 ml of water and add in additional water gradually, as needed.

Add the yeast, salt, and molasses. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle in additional water if necessary to distribute evenly.

Cover the bowl, and let dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Gently punch the dough down to release the air. Form into a round and place back in the bowl. Let the dough rest an additional 45 minutes.

After the dough has risen during the 45 minutes, punch it down to release the air.Divide the dough into 8-9 equal portions, about 70 grams each. Shape each portion into a ball

Press the bottom (seam side) into a plate of rolled oats, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let the rolls rise another 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Just before baking use a sharp knife to cut an x-shape, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep on top of each roll. Sprinkle coarse Kosher salt over the rope, for flavor and to be decorative. You can also use caraway seeds or sunflower seeds 

Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Once the rolls are baked, allow them to cool on the baking sheet. Enjoy warm with butter.