Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Loaded Baked Potato Bread

March 7, 2021

Once a week, we have bread and butter plus whatever little noshes I have around. The bread always starts with an adapted version of the King Arthur Flour Cookbook‘s Crusty Italian Loaf. I use half bread flour though, and bake my loaves (usually 2) in a dutch oven rather than braiding anything. Starting the preferment- the biga- overnight, makes the process a day and a half long project but it’s not very hands on. The flavor is great and it has a nice open crumb. Plus you can add whatever you like. A favorite is dried cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate. Cheese and jalapeño hits the spot. Tonight was cheddar, bacon, and chives. Smeared with a little butter, it tastes like everything I want in a loaded baked potato.

A note on the cheese: You really do want to leave it in chunks. If it’s shredded or in small pieces it will disappear into the dough and just leave you with a sort of cheddar flavor and it will soften the bread a lot.

For the biga:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tbs cool water
1/8 tsp active dry yeast

For the dough:
2-2.5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup water
2 tsp yeast
1 heaping tsp salt (probably more 2 in my house bc I feel like bread needs salt)
6 oz aged white cheddar, large (3/4 inch) cubes
10 strips crispy bacon, chopped or crumbled
2-3 tbs chopped chives.

On the night before you wish to eat your bread, mix the bigga ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Just use your hands or a rubber spatula. It will be thick and pretty shaggy looking. Cover it with a shower cap or plastic wrap and then let it sit in your warmish kitchen over night. The longer it sits on the counter, the more flavorful the bread will be.

The next day: add the cool water, 2 cups flour, yeast, salt, cheddar, bacon, and chives to the bigga. Turn on the mixer and allow the ingredients to mix at a 1 or 2 speed until it just cleans the sides of the bowls. Add the rest of the flour in small amounts if it’s too sticky. I don’t really work the dough at all at this stage. It’s together in a ball, but it’s not stretchy.

Remove the dough ball from the bowl and let it rest on the counter while you wash, dry, and very lightly oil the bowl. I’ve never needed flour on the counter at this stage. Then put the dough ball back in and cover it again. Set a timer for about 40 minutes. By that time, the ball should have sort of loosened up and gotten a little bigger. Wet your hand, then slide it under the dough, scoop/stretch the dough from the bottom and sort of fold it over the top. Vaguely like this. Do that 4 or 5 times, working around the dough ball. Re cover, let it rise another 40 minutes, and then repeat. Leave the dough to rise for another 30 minutes. Were I making just a plain bread, I would reduce each of those 40 minutes to 30…. the add ins will weigh down the dough and it will take longer to rise. You’ll notice these loaves aren’t particularly tall… another consequence of the additions.

Next, shape your bread. May I suggest youtube for tips, bc there’s no way I can accurately describe it? There are 10,000 ways to shape but I generally cut the dough roughly in half and make two loaves. 1’s a boule and 1’s an oblong simply because those are the bannetons I have. Leave these two loaves to rise, covered, for about 75 minutes. I’ve also done just one large boule in the round banneton and increased the rising time to about 90 minutes. You would also need to bake it significantly longer.

While the loaves are rising, place your dutch oven with it’s lid in the oven and heat to 450.

When the loaves have risen, place one in the fridge to cook after the first. I make a parchment sling and turn my loaf out onto it from the banneton. Then slice a cross in the top. Remove the dutch oven from the oven. Working very quickly, place the loaf (seam side down) into the dutch oven. Replace the lid, and put the whole thing in the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid then bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the bread and allow it to cool on a wire rack while you repeat with the refrigerated loaf. Allow loaves to cool totally before cutting. I find it much easier to turn the loaf on it’s side and cut, rather than attack from the top.

The end result is a loaf w/ a crunchy crust that tastes slightly of cheese, an open crumb w/ little pools of cheddar remaining, and a nice smokey bacon flavor. We ate it off a cutting board piled w/ fruit and deviled eggs.

Stuffed Pork Loin Wellington

January 1, 2021


Mea culpa: I forgot to take a pic of the whole thing, but it was very pretty. This is a cross section on my plate. It was very rich, so I should have cut much thinner slices. Notice that we did have our New Years black eyed peas.


Day 1 and 2: Make rough puff pastry. Make sure it’s had at least 24 hours in the fridge after all of the turns. Can make as much as 48 hours ahead. (https://www.bonappetit.com/story/rough-puff-pastry-cheaters-guide)

Day 2: Make duxelles. I made basically this recipe, but used cognac instead of vermouth and flambéed it off. (https://www.thespruceeats.com/mushroom-duxelles-intense-and-refined-912879)

Day 3 (or day 2 after duxelles has fully cooled): Assemble the roll.

            1 roll cut pork loin, about 3 pounds

          ½ pound pork sausage

            2 large tart apples, peeled, cored, and cubed then tossed w/ lemon

            ½ cup panko bread crumbs
            1 tbs rendered bacon fat

            Prosciutto- I used about 10 thin slices.  Have extra for patching up

            1 egg beaten, w/ tsp water

Brown the sausage and break up into small pieces.  When it is almost cooked, toss in apples and cook to just soften.  If there is a large amount of liquid, drain it off.  Add panko and taste for seasoning.  This will depend on the flavor from the sausage.  The panko is just to soak up juice from the apple as it cooks.  Set aside to fully cool.

While the stuffing cools, roll cut the pork loin if this wasn’t done by your meat market.  Pound to about ½ inch thick, being careful not to leave any holes.  Season w/ salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When stuffing is completely cool, layer it on one side of the pork loin and press down gently.  Then roll from the short end to make a relatively tight spiral.  Truss tightly with kitchen twine.  Brown in hot bacon fat on all sides.  Then place the entire roast in the fridge for about an hour until cool.  Remove twine.

Lay out overlapping plastic wrap large enough to accommodate the circumference of your roast.  Create a thin, overlapping sheet of prosciutto.  It should be large enough to completely cover the roast when rolled up.  The prosciutto is used in part to stop juice from the roast from wetting the pastry so it should have no holes or gaps.  Put a thin layer of duxelles on the prosciutto leaving a ¼ inch strip at the edges clear. Place the cooled roast (with twine removed) in the middle of the duxxelles covered prosciutto.  Use the plastic wrap to bring the edges of the prosciutto up and fold in the ends until the roast is completed sealed in it. Look for gaps in the ham and if there are any, spackle them over with additional prosciutto.   Try to keep the entire roll tight.  Use the plastic wrap to make a tight, neat log and refrigerate this overnight.  The roast should be completely cold before enrobing in pastry.

Day 4: Roll rough puff pastry into a ¼ inch thick rectangle big enough to roll around your roast.  Remove roast from plastic wrap and then bring the pastry up around the roast as you did with the prosciutto.  Seal all edges with fingertips and place the pastry covered log on a baking sheet lined w/ parchment paper. (Seam side down). Score or decorate w/ excess pastry as desired.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry covered roast from the fridge.  Insert a digital probe thermometer into the very center of the roll.  Place in a 400F oven, then immediately reduce the temperature to 375.  Cook until the center of the roast reaches 145F.   Remove from the baking sheet asap so that the pastry isn’t sitting in any cooking juices.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then slice into thick cross sections to serve.





Mixed Berry Muffins

September 4, 2017

muffin

My daughters have come to expect a batch of muffins just about every week to serve as their school day breakfast.  Occasionally instead of muffins I’m asked for stones (scones)  but this week I had a bunch of strawberries and dewberries left over and needed to use them up.  So in a muffin they went.  I had hoped the muffins would be a cheery pinkish purple color and the batter was just so.  I added the jam partially for color’s sake and partially because my berries weren’t terribly sweet.  They baked out to a fairly uniform white shade though so if you’re inclined and not averse a drop or two of pink food coloring wouldn’t go wrong.

These turned out ridiculously tender and buttery with a nice thin crust to the tops.  I set two of them out under a pie safe and the rest go in a gallon baggie in the freezer to be doled out from Monday to Friday.

Makes 15 muffins.

Mixed Berry Muffins
2 cups white flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 2/3 cup fresh mixed berries, chopped
2 tbs blackberry (dewberry) or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 425. Dice berries and combine with jam.  Add all other ingredients and stir, just to combine.  Portion out into lined muffin tins.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saltine Toffee

April 29, 2017

Southern cooking relies on ingredients that are a.) Cheap, b.) tasty, and c.) generally pretty terrible for your body.  Saltine Toffee historically  meets all of those criteria.  It’s often a Christmas cookie treat, but it’s one of my go to treats to send along on trips and as a gift.

Start by lining a sheet pan with saltine crackers.  I line with foil for the mess and a sheet of parchment paper to stop the candy from sticking to the foil.  Who wants to eat little bits of foil? (Foil sounds like f-oh-l when I say it, if that helps.)

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In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring butter and brown sugar to a boil.  Stir to keep the sugar from burning for 3 minutes.

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Pour the boiled sugar mixture over the crackers (it will plop, more than stream) and spread evenly.
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Bake in the oven at  425 for 5 minutes until the sugar mixture is hot and bubbling, then remove and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips.  I’m a stickler for fair trade chocolate because imho, child slavery tastes bad.    Cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes until the chocolate has melted, then spread the chocolate out across the toffee crackers.  I top it with pecans, because Central Texas, but it’s good as is or even with crushed peppermint.
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Refrigerate until cool, peel the candy from the lined pan and break into bite sized pieces.
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Saltine Toffee:
Soda crackers, about 50
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup salted butter
2 cups fair trade semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 pecans

Preheat oven to 425. Cover a lined baking sheet with soda crackers, leaving as little gap as possible.  Place butter and brown sugar in a heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil for 3 minutes.  Pour boiling sugar mixture over crackers and place the sheet pan in the oven.  Bake for 5 minutes or until bubbling.   Remove from heat and immediately cover with chocolate chips.  Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Spread melted chocolate chips with a rubber spatula and then top with pecans if desired.  Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for 15 or 20 minutes until cool.  Break into serving pieces.  Best fresh while the crackers are still crisp, but can be stored in an air tight container.

Now I am a Yeti!

August 16, 2016

Not Quite Buckeye Balls

November 15, 2013

I don’t normally talk in such definitive terms but: We’ve all been making Buckeye Balls incorrectly for the entirety of man kind. It’s true. The correct recipe follows.

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1 (6.5oz) container of PB2 with chocolate
1/2 of the same container filled w/ powdered sugar
2 tbs virgin coconut oil
6 tbs dark spiced rum
3 tbs coconut coffee creamer
chocolate bark, melted

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, lightly mix PB2 and powdered sugar. Mix in the coconut oil and blend for about a minute until it’s even distributed through the bowl. Add in the rum, 1 tbs at a time, until the batter has a sufficient rum taste but doesn’t knock you over. Then add the coconut creamer until the mixture just comes together. You might not use all of the creamer. It should look like this:

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Roll the dough into balls worth one or two bites. Refrigerate them for half an hour. Melt chocolate bark by the directions provided (Or make your own using your favorite chocolate and a scoop or two of shortening. I was lazy today.) Cool until you can just touch the chocolate enough to work with. Swirl each dough ball into the chocolate bark, and then set on a lined cookie sheet.

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Refrigerate until set, then serve. Then thank me. Often. I’m freezing them and sending them to Costa Rica, because I want to be that far away from their magnetic wonderfulness.

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Custom beds

July 3, 2013

We’re far far from home right now in Vermont.  Having put our little spot in Dripping Springs on the market, we decided to stay away for 6 months.  The first we spent in a friend’s snow bound cabin in St Adolphe d Howard, about 2 hours from Montreal.  The next 5 months, we’re spending in our preferred rental house in Burlington, Vermont.

The thing about me is that though I love to travel and feel the various textures of the world, I am an inveterate home body.  To me, the best part of any ocean crossing adventure is the pull I feel, constantly, to return to my not so tidy hobbit hole.

Here I am now, 3 months homeless.  I have no permanent address, and my babies are sleeping on crib mattresses on the floor.  The hobbit in me quivers.

If there’s one thing I do better than feather a nest however, it’s plan.  I have lists, databases, and maps of potential next homes.  I have flowcharts in my head of just how our move southward will go.  I also have custom furniture.

My brother in law, Matt Mitchell, it turns out is quite the artist when it comes to woodwork.  He has recently founded a custom furniture business called Austin Joinery.  He’s building a portfolio, and so I managed to commission two very special beds for my girls.  These will be the first feathers laid in my next nest and I find it appropriate that they are for the girls, made by family, and flecked with symbolism.

The frame is of Massaranduba, aka Bullet proof wood. To stand up to my kids and our frenetic life, bullet proof is good:

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The inlays are burled walnut. Burled as in full of knots. Imperfect, just like their mom.

The final touch is a walnut inlay of a personally significant deco rose design:

That design is very similar to one that I have tattooed on my back. It’s a memorial tattoo for my best friend and my father’s father, who died within months of each other in 2001. The grandfather grew beautiful roses. The friend’s memory confronted me repeatedly on a trip I took to Scotland. I first saw a similar design in Glasgow and it reminded me of her and him simultaneously.

As it stands, I have no permanent address.  I have a home, the place I carry with me to where ever Andy and I land.  My nest is only really in my mind just now though, and  these two pieces of furniture built with the aid of a talented craftsman, are the first feathers I have for it.

Banana Nut Muffins

May 12, 2013

Okay. I admit once and for all that I don’t measure anything. Ever. So you’ll have to use your eyeballs when assembling these muffins because they were both the bomb and the diggity. If it looks too wet, add more dry. If it looks too dry, add more wet. We’re grown ups and can handle this, right?

3 horrendously over ripe bananas I’d forgotten on top of the fridge
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce I needed to be rid of
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted  (Yes.  You read that right.)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup maple syrup (I really  just glugged until Andy shouted “HOLY SHIT!”)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup pecans or walnut pieces

Beat the bananas and apple sauce until smooth. Slowly wiz in the melted butter. Add in the rest of the ingredients one at a time except the nuts. Fold those in at the very last minute.

Pour into lined muffin tins, almost filling each cup. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until just done. Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Feed them to a baby so hungry, she’s prepared to eat her own foot. Save some for yourself.

2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

2011 in review

January 1, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.