Tag Archives: King Arthur Flour

Pretzel Rolls and BBQ in St. Louis, Louie


Pretzel Rolls inspired by dinner at Weber Grill STL.

St. Louis, Missouri, is not known as a food destination city, per se, but it is known for, among other things, very meaty and fatty St. Louis spare ribs and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, which became a legend after a local baker mixed a cake in the wrong proportions. Or so they say.  St. Louis also has its own style of pizza that sounds even worse than Chicago-style pizza, if that’s possible. In St. Louis, mozzarella is replaced by something called “Provel,”  a white processed cheese formed by a fusion of Provelone, Swiss, and white cheddar. One of these days, I will stop being a snob and I’ll try it.

Weber Grill at the St. Louis Galleria opened about seven months ago, and even though it is tucked into a forgotten corner of the mall and hidden by construction, you can see it from a mile away because of the bright red outsized Weber grill that sits on top like a gigantic fire hydrant with a dog whistle. I have zero knowledge about BBQ, so I cannot speak to its authenticity, a subject that I understand is hotly debated at every roadside BBQ joint, but the meat and fish here were delicious. Just for context, however, remember that our dining experiences in St. Louis have been limited to chain restaurants in the mall:  Enough said? But no; it really is good!

This is the fifth of the Weber Grill Restaurant franchise (three in Illinois, one in Indiana), and I would be very happy indeed if they opened a location on the Upper West Side! As they themselves say:

Sit back, relax, and let Weber do the grilling tonight. Join us at the Weber Grill Restaurant where there’s no mosquitoes, tiki torches, or chance of rain. Just delicious grilled food from the folks who really know barbecue—Weber.

Most of what we ate at Weber Grill was really excellent. Mr. Darcy loved the pretzel rolls that they bring to the table,  which inspired me to make them at home. I found two recipes, one from Fleischmann’s Yeast, and the other from King Arthur Flour.  I opted in favor of the KAF, because it had fewer ingredients, but they both looked good, and they both involved giving the dough a bath — so much fun!


Caesar salad with grilled salmon at Weber Grill.

My Caesar salad with grilled salmon was perfect, but the “grilled rustic flat bread” was supermarket pita with some herbs thrown on it while someone whispered, “Grill.” Mr. Darcy’s baby back ribs and  crab cakes were both delicious, but the “roasted garlic mashed potatoes” had no garlic, much less roasted garlic. The lemon grilled shrimp appetizer was very nice, but the four grilled shrimp came upon a huge pile of greasy fried onions, and the lemon aioli dipping sauce was devoid of both lemon and garlic.  Just plain mayo.  I do not care for coleslaw, and the blue cheese and pecan coleslaw did not change my mind, much as I love both blue cheese and pecans.

The staff was very pleasant and the service was quite good. Our iced tea and water were constantly being refreshed. Oddly, the check was presented without our being asked if we wanted dessert. I really wanted to try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Sniff. Oh well. Maybe next time.

The room is attractive with several separate seating areas. It is child-friendly, and the noise level is comfortable even when the restaurant is crowded. The booths are unusually comfortable. This was the first booth in living memory that didn’t make me feel like I was sitting in a high chair. Sweet!

The restaurant was busy the night we went, but I understand that Saturday nights are impossibly crowded and very hard to get into.  Make reservations.

Weber Grill offers grilling classes in a large and well-appointed classroom-kitchen, and I have convinced Mr. Darcy that we should take a class the next time we are in STL. I went to the website hoping to sign up for e-mail notifications, but found nothing. It would be good if they would provide e-mail information about their class schedule.


Pretzel rolls about to go into the oven.

Speaking of cooking classes, Kitchen Conservatory, just up the street from the St.Louis Galleria, offers over 800 cooking classes a year, and the schedule for the year is right there on line. Right now. The classes are very reasonably priced and clearly delineated as “demonstration” or “hands on.”

Kitchen Conservatory has been here for 30 years and is an independent, locally-owned enterprise. It is housed in what looks like a small house from the street. Once inside, however, it feels huge. There are quite a few clearly designated and easy to navigate selling areas with an astronomical amount of top quality kitchen equipment. Everything you can imagine is displayed attractively — over 6000 items —  from huge Le Creuset Dutch Ovens to tiny little piglet cookie cutters. You can also shop on line. There is an informative blog, and they even offer an Ask The Chef feature to e-mail your cooking and baking questions. I haven’t tried it yet, but if it’s anything like King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Hotline, we are in luck!

There are two kitchen-classrooms: one appears to be for demonstration classes while the other looks to be for participation classes. Definitely on the agenda for our next trip.


Dorie Greenspan’s long-awaited cookie book. Three dozen chocolate chip cookies did not survive three days in Mr. Darcy’s cookie jar!

Waiting for me back home was Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful new baking book Dorie’s Cookies. First out of the box, so to speak, were My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies — to which I added espresso, of course — for Mr. Darcy. Clearly a winner, this is a hefty volume and I will be reporting back on it. Frequently!

Southern Tomato Pie


Southern Tomato Pie from Vivian Howard.

You remember Vivian Howard from last week, right? The blueberry vinegar BBQ chicken chick? If you haven’t watched her PBS program, A Chef’s Life, I highly recommend it. Even Mr. Darcy, who has no interest in where food comes from or how it is prepared, likes it. But, then again, she is a very pretty woman. Bless his heart.

I am collecting all of her recipes  that I can find on line (Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs, and Chocolate Cake with Beets), and will be reporting on same in the weeks to come. Note to Vivian: Hey, girl, hey! I am just sitting here waiting for your cookbook to be released (the day after my birthday!) Pre-ordered on Amazon. I made your Southern Tomato Pie this weekend, and we enjoyed it so much that I made four more crusts for the freezer.

Southern Tomato Pie is a dish I first heard of on my first trip to Charleston, S.C. At the hotel, I asked the concierge where to go to learn all I could about Southern food . . .  in three days. When I told her that I was even willing to eat okra, she leaned over the counter and told me, sotto voce, to go straight to the Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe and eat everything on the menu, especially the tomato pie.  Which I did. Except for the tomato pie. It sold out every day just as soon as I got to the front of the line! But for all other Southern food? They have been the gold standard for me ever since. Shrimp and grits? Oh, don’t even talk to me!

The. Best. Ever. What can I say? The best American literature and the best American food come from the South. American qua American, of course; I don’t wear an onion roll on my head.

So, anyway, when I saw Vivian Howard’s recipe for Southern Tomato Pie, I thought, hmmmm, this is my chance to taste a real southern tomato pie. Well, of course, how would I know? I guess if I like it, it must be authentic!

The recipe is time-consuming, but not difficult. It’s two kinds of tomatoes three ways, caramelized onions (and thanks, Vivian, for not saying that the onions will caramelize in 10 minutes!), two kinds of cheese (fontina and parm-regg), basil, and mayo. Honh? Mayo? Fuggedaboutit. It works. The crust is as thin as a cookie and, even though it is not sweet, it is so delicious and distinctive that it could be eaten just like a cookie. Alone. I kid you not. The blend of tomatoes, cheeses, and mayo is exactly right. The result is sweet and salty, chewy, smooth and crunchy.  All the things that make your mouth happy. This is a dish you will keep eating until it’s all gone (hey, who ate my pie?), all the while looking forward to the next time.


The crust can be made in the food processor:  just keep a couple of extra tablespoons of ice water handy so that the dough comes together quickly.


Blind-baked crust.


Onions on their way to a deep caramel.


Cubed tomatoes draining with sugar and salt.


Cubed tomatoes going into the oven with salt, thyme and olive oil.


Cubed tomatoes coming out of the oven with a nice roast on them.

For the filling, mix the raw and roasted tomatoes, and the onions.  Scoop into the baked pie crust and add the cheeses, the mayo and the basil, which have been mixed together in a separate bowl. Top with thin slices of Roma tomatoes. Bake. This recipe makes even mediocre tomatoes taste as if they have been just picked from the vine.

In a bread-baking mood (and when am I not?). I’ve been tempted for a while now to try King Arthur Flour’s sprouted wheat flour, and the bag arrived a few days ago.  For Mr. Darcy’s snacking pleasure, I made KAF’S Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars.  Before you say, “Oh, good. Healthy,” I should tell you that the recipe calls for two (count’ em, 2) cups of sugar. So much for whole wheat healthiness. Every notice that anything touted as low-fat (or lo-fat) never mentions that they are also high- (or hi-) sugar? Whatever is made healthier by reducing the fat, it seems, is made less healthy by far by adding in ton of sugar and other sweeteners. That’s right. You can’t win. Both the dough and the topping contain KAF’s Chai Spice, a blend of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, anise, and black pepper. As a result, the cookies have a gingerbread plus flavor, and the really good chewy texture of a brownie. They go equally well with both coffee and tea. So, dunk alors!

SproutedWheatVanilla ChaiBars

From the side of the sprouted wheat flour bag, I made some sprouted wheat raisin bread.


Nice. Not thrilling.

While on a raisin bread roll, I gave KAF’s Harvest Bread with sweet potato and raisins a whirl. Any old raisin bread satisfies Mr. Darcy, and these were fine, but not terribly interesting.


Love the color from the sweet potato.

And, speaking of women I admire, you must know that my amazingly creative, talented and resourceful niece  — the real chef in the family — started Vermont Amber, a toffee company. You will not believe the flavors she has come up with: salted sesame, cacao nib, ginger cookie, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, in addition to the usual suspects. This is not the jaw-breaking toffee sugar chunks you probably remember from your childhood, but thin and meltinyourmouth flavor shots. If you are ever at a loss for a gift, or party favors, or you are or know a toffee junkie, check it out. There is even a Toffee-of-the-Month Club. Go. Order on line!


Sun-dried tomato toffee? Yes, please!


Red Peppers, White Beans, M.C. Escher Olive Oil Cake


Bell Pepper and Bean Salad adapted from Zahav.

Have you ever made a dish so delicious that even while you are eating it you are looking forward to making it again?  Let me backtrack.  It was that kind of a day.  Inertia before succumbing to the inevitable. The last bearable day, according to the weather report, before it settles into the 80s.  Hot, hazy, humid.  The three most hideous words in the English language. I needed a refreshing salad, and I needed something different.  A Red Pepper Salad in James Beard Cookbook of the Year, Zahav by Michael Solomov and Steven Cook of the Philadelphia restaurant of the same name, called to me.

Red Pepper Salad
(adapted from Zahav )


1/4 cup olive oil (supplement with olive oil spray, if necessary)
2 large red onions, chopped
5 bell peppers, chopped (I like to combine orange and red)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup cooked white beans, like Rancho Gordo Spanish Alubia Blancas
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, optional
1/2 – 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste


          1. Heat oven to 375° and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil;
      2. Put the olive oil in a bowl and, keeping the vegetables separate, add and remove onions, peppers, and carrots with a slotted spoon, placing each on a baking sheet; if necessary, spray with olive oil spray to fully coat the vegetables;


      3.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to char;


        3. Remove all vegetables together to the bowl of food processor and pulse about 3 times, allowing mixture to remain in chunks;
        4. Remove to a salad bowl, and add sugar, salt and vinegar;
        5. Add beans;


        6.  Add cilantro, mix, and test for sugar and salt.

ZahavPepperSalad_5The beans are a rich and creamy counterpoint to the sweetness of the roasted pepper and onions as well as the sharpness of the vinegar.  The original calls for paprika, which would add yet another level of flavor, but I wasn’t in the mood for paprika.  Next time.


Cake pan and recipe available at King Arthur Flour.

Could you resist a square bundt pan that looks like it was designed by M.C. Escher or, as my brilliant and witty artist BFF commented, Mrs. M.C. Escher!  Neither could I. And, happily, there is an olive oil cake recipe to go with it.


Not only is this gorgeous, but you really can have “just a sliver.” I used King Arthur Flour’s “new” cake flour (their Queen Guinevere seems to have disappeared), and the crumb is tender and spectacular.


This is a particularly nice recipe, because you have not only a real cake cake, but you also get that unmistakable olive oil burn at the back of your throat.  Ahhh. And yes, of course, there would have to be a DishnDat twist, wouldn’t there? So, I eliminated the almond extract. In my experience, even the most minute use of it overpowers everything else.  Then, instead of 3/4 teaspoon of salt, I used 1/4 teaspoon each of regular salt, vanilla salt, and rosemary salt.  I also added 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary.  Next time I will increase the dried rosemary to a full teaspoon, and I will add the grated zest of at least one lemon.

A happy meal.

The sound you hear is Mr. Darcy smacking his lips.

Cookie Monster Returns — is Greeted by Cookies!

Cakes and cookies greet Mr. Darcy’s return, temporary though it may be!  Nothing but photos this week.


Blondies with pecans and toffee bits (ATK)


Cream Cheese Brownies (ATK)


Madeleines (KAF)


Arancini Cake with Prosciutto and Mozzarella (Saveur)


Angel Food Cake (Betty Crocker. Yes, Betty Crocker!)

Sandwich Bread

Does anyone else out there hate whole wheat bread? Brown rice? Whole wheat pasta? OK, hate is a strong word, but you only live once, and if the white rolls that Heidi hid in her pockets to take to the Grandfather is your kind of bread, life is too short to eat the healthier alternative.


A fairly labor intensive recipe for whole wheat bread from Cook’s Illustrated. Worth the effort. A nice loaf.

Although I have actually come to terms with brown rice — it can be nutty and satisfying–whole wheat pasta is still out of the question unless all kinds of unhealthy things are added to it to make it palatable, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating healthy.  Whole wheat bread has the well-deserved reputation of being bitter (add orange juice). Like whole wheat pasta, it often needs a lot of sweet stuff added to make it edible, and, once again, defeating the whole purpose.

OK, I am overstating.  There is whole wheat bread that is delicious and healthy, but it’s not plug and play. I don’t really hate whole wheat bread, but I do hate whole wheat bread recipes.  They are temperamental and unreliable.  After all the work, you can’t simply count on having a decent loaf of bread.  White bread flour is my ideal: flour, salt and yeast, and, even if it ain’t pretty, it tastes good.  But, because Mr. Darcy counts on my bread every day for his sandwich, I keep trying for that healthy alternative. Because I like him and want to keep him around.  What I have learned recently is that multi-grain is the way to go. Mix up the grains, add a few enhancements, use the correct technique, and it’s tasty, healthy, and not a commitment.

Here, for example,  is a recipe for Harvest Grains Loaf from King Arthur Flour.  I have adapted it for a stand mixer, and the only thing that I have changed is the technique, which I adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s All-Time Best Bread Recipes.  

A couple of hints for baking bread:

  • Always spray the mixing bowl(s) with canola or other neutral spray before adding the ingredients.  This reduces the amount of product that stays at the bottom of the mixing bowl, and makes  it easier to retrieve every bit of dough after rising.  And clean-up is a lot simpler.
  •  Do not add the salt with all the other ingredients, no matter what the recipe says.  Mix the dough and then let the dough sit, covered, for 20 minutes.  (Remove the dough hook if you are using a stand mixer.)  Then add the salt, replace the hook, and knead for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Treat bread gently.  In the old days, we were taught to slam it around.  Don’t.  Just don’t.
  • If you have the option, measure by weight rather than volume.
  • Always use a thermometer to test bread for doneness.
  • When making more than one loaf, weigh the dough; do not eyeball it.
Mismatched loaves

From the do as I say and not as I do department!


2/3 cup King Arthur Harvest Grains Blend
1  3/4 cup hottest tap water
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil, like canola
2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/4 cup potato flour 
1/4 cup King Arthur Barker’s Special Dry Milk
3 scant tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons granular lecithin
1 tablespoon King Arthur Vital Wheat Gluten
1 egg, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Canola spray for oiling bowls


  1. Spray a large mixing bowl or proofing bucket and set aside;
  2. Place the Harvest Grains into an oil-sprayed stand mixer bowl, and add 1 cup of very hot tap water.  Let sit one hour;
  3. While the grains are soaking, add all the italicized ingredients in green to a large mixing bowl and whisk together;
  4. Add the canola oil and the egg yolk to the Harvest Grains;
  5. Add the flour mixture, one cup at a time;
  6. Add small amounts of the remaining 3/4 cup of hot water, as needed; if necessary, add a pinch of bread flour;
  7. Knead until the dough forms a ball;
  8. The dough will be sticky, but sprinkle the counter or wooden board with a little bread flour, and form into as smooth ball as you can;
  9. Place dough into oiled bowl or bucket, cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size;
  10. When dough has doubled in size, remove from its container and divide into two;
  11. Press down gently and form into loaves;
  12. Spray two 8 1/2  x 4 1/2 loaf pans, and place one loaf in each, pressing gently on the top of each loaf to even it out;
  13. Preheat oven to 350°;
  14. Cover with plastic shower cap/plastic wrap, and let rise until dough is 1 inch above the rim;
  15. Beat the egg white with a fork until foamy and brush the tops of the loaves with the liquid;
  16. Bake for 35 minutes or until thermometer measures 190°
  17. Remove from pans and cool on racks until room temperature.

harvest grains

And  —  ta DA — here is the crumb shot:


The greatest thing since sliced bread!

If it’s Autumn, It Must be Time for Rye Bread


Rye bread in the background and Swedish LImpa rye in the foreground.

Would you believe that within the past 18 months (not even), we have had to replace every single one of our appliances? Even the damn microwave. Granted, they were all pretty old, but even so. The last one to go was the range. I had been smelling gas for months, but the real tip-off was the back draft when I opened the  oven door while the oven was pre-heating and the flames rushed forward. Very. Scary.

It was a tough week and a half without an oven.  Talk about withdrawal.  I was tweaking.  And to make matters worse, we ran out of all the bread in the freezer the day before Sears delivered, and I had to buy rolls from the store. Gasp!

This is the oven that Sears did not deliver:














Isn’t it beautiful? It even has my Le Creuset pots on the burners.  I found the photo on Pinterest, and I have no idea where it came from or if it’s even real. Sigh.

And here is the one Sear did deliver:  An updated version of exactly what we had before.


It’s got those fancy grates like the big boy stoves, and five burners. Having an extra burner is  kind of like  having three nipples:  handy, but not aesthetically pleasing initially.


You knew that the first thing I would do with a new oven was bake bread, right?  In fact,  as soon as I got the text from Sears with their ETA, I prepped all the ingredients for rye bread.

First up, two loaves of Limpa (Swedish rye) from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible. I’m still looking for the limpa that I remember from my childhood and I still haven’t found it.  What I remember is a perfectly subtle admixture of sweet and sour, of bread and cake, with a delicate aftertaste of licorice.  This one is too intense to qualify, but it’s not a bad loaf of bread, especially with a slice of onion and a nice strong cheese melted on top.

Then, it was time for another shot at Pumpernickel-Rye Hearth Bread from King Arthur Flour.

I haven’t been successful before, but I have a pan that should produce a loaf much like the old Pechter’s or Levy’s Jewish Rye that used to be available in grocery stores, oval, rounded and complete with cross-hatching on the crust.  And I am determined to make it work. Thinking that maybe it was the oven, I tried the KAF recipe, but it still didn’t rise enough.


So, I called the KAF Baker’s Hotline, and got some advice.  I took that advice, and tried it again. It was better, but not better enough.  It just wouldn’t rise high enough. So, another call to the Hotline.  More advice. I tried it again.  Still nothing.


Then, it hit me: I had made a classic rookie (read stupid) mistake.  I thought that I was using the same size pan as called for in the recipe, just because I bought the pan at KAF.  Wrong!  I measured the pan and called the Hotline once again. They told me that it would be really hard to make that recipe fit (I will try, but not today), and that they don’t have a recipe for the old bread pan.  Not happy.

So, I decided to try the Sour Rye Bread in Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible.


Hello, Gorgeous! Happy.

Mr. Darcy flipped over this one.  He praised the soft texture of the inside and the chewy crust. This is probably the closest I have come to a real deli rye. This is going to be a regular!


Bread and butter. It doesn’t get any better.

The more I use The Bread Bible, the more I like it. It is mercifully unfussy and straightforward. The recipes are clear.  The recipes work. My only quarrel is that the salt content is too high, and, typically, I have to cut way, way back.  I also wish there were photos.  ;(  If you decide to buy this book, be careful.  There is another one out there called The Bread Bible;  and I definitely do not recommend it. So, make sure you buy this one.  Here is a photo of some very nice water rolls from Hensperber’s Bread Bible.  They go with soup, salad, and make a nice sandwich for Mr. Darcy’s lunch.


On a roll <g>, I decided to try Richard Bertinet’s raisin and caraway seed rye from Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread.


This is a sturdy loaf that is delicious — sweet, sour, and tangy — perfect with eggs for breakfast.


It’s not very pretty, but it does taste good.  And I can no longer blame my oven, can I?  As my father used to admonish, “‘Tis the poor workman who blames his tools!”  I think it’s time to start getting serious about Bertinet’s method, which involves rubbing the yeast into the flour. The book comes with a DVD, so I have no excuse.

The recipe makes two loaves and I’m thinking it will make perfect  chicken salad or turkey sandwiches for lunch, not to mention an accompaniment to a hearty winter vegetable soup for dinner.

There is nothing quite like a dinner of bread and soup, so I decided that this is the year that I will crown myself the Queen of Soup, so stay tuned this winter for more soup recipes. Do you have a favorite you would like to share on DishnDat?  As the man said, “I’m all ears!”



A Great Weekend: Bread, Bread and more Bread . . . and Pizza


Although I’m still intimidated by Flour Water Salt Yeast,  I can’t put it off anymore. And today is the day. And my first bread will be — drum roll, please — Overnight White Bread.  The instructions look daunting. So many steps. So many days.  But,OK, folks, here goes.

I had sourdough starter, so I could skip one step. Whew! I could mix my starter with flour for the autolyse, then mix, and then follow with the overnight fermentation. Check out this fermentation. Gorgeous!

IMG_3415 In the morning, I divided the dough among three bannetons, which will give the finished loaves those distinctive markings.Bannetons

The large one is ready for the oven.Ready to bake

And it’s done!Done_2JPG

And here is the bread porn!Thecrumbshot

What about bread for Mr. Darcy’s sandwiches, you ask? Of course, I did not forget Mr. Darcy! I made a soft sandwich rye from Peter Reinhart’s  Artisan Breads Every Day. This was another adventure with delicious results. Cocoa powder, black caraway seeds, and orange extract are added to the flour mixture.  Only I didn’t have the orange extract, so I added Fiori di Sicilia, which is an orange and vanilla flavoring used in baking. Certainly, if there is cocoa, it will need a little vanilla, right?  And I get in the orange in an alternative way. Very fragrant.  Very beautiful.IMG_3413

A lovely dough. It stays in the refrigerator overnight.IMG_3414

In the morning, the loaves can be baked in regular bread loaf pans.  Here is the crumb shot!  Ooh!  Aaah!IMG_3433

Tomorrow, I will be placing a large order with King Arthur for flour and ingredients to be delivered up to Maine.  I am trying not to be too ambitious, but I would love to bake some simple bread and cookies with the grandchildren — on the theory that you are never too young, right?  What child doesn’t like to play with dough? Or make a mess for that matter?

And before I leave, I have to test some new Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast that I bought in Maine last month.  They get new products there much sooner than we do, in NYC, and it’s always fun to go to the supermarket to check them out.  The package says “not recommended for bread baking.” The mystery deepens.  What could possibly make this specifically “pizza dough” yeast?IMG_3409 Maybe a dough relaxer to make it easier to shape the pie — so the edges don’t snap back?  Sure enough, when I looked at the ingredients, the only one that I did not recognize was L-Cysteine.  And sure enough, again, a Google search revealed that L-Cysteine is a non-essential amino acid that is used as a dough relaxer.  The ick factor?  It is extracted from duck feathers. Blech.  I called Fleischmann’s and, to their credit, they confirmed its origins.  However, the very nice Consumer Affairs rep explained that they have a proprietary process for the extraction, and reassured me that our lips do not touch duck feathers. It did make a very manageable dough. Will there be a difference in the taste?  Will I want to use it again?  Hmmm.IMG_3436

This was a great pizza, although, for my money, I still like the sourdough pizza the best so far.  In a pinch, the yeast is fine  — but, oh those duck feathers.

Finally, unless I manage to figure how to post from the i-Pad, I will just be posting lobster photos while I’m away.

So, here’s hoping that Costa Rica wins the Mundial, and wishing everyone a Happy July 4th, and I will see you all back here come mid-July.

Lobstah, here I come!

Jim Lahey No-Knead Made in Clay Cloche Baker (KAF)

Artisan Bread — Taking the Next Step

Lately, I’ve been inspired by (translation:  drooling over) photos of artisan breads being posted on Facebook, and I’ve made two decisions:  to give sourdough another chance, and to step it up with artisan bread.  So, I bought Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish of Portland’s Ken’s Artisan Bakery and Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and a clay cloche bread baker from King Arthur Flour.  We’re talking major commitment, and I started to get cold feet!  I don’t have a good track record with sourdough, and the Forkish book — beautiful and readable — is still ever so intimidating.

So, I began slowly.  I prepared the Jim Lahey no-knead bread dough, and baked it in the cloche.Jim Lahey No-Knead Made in Clay Cloche Baker (KAF)  This is what it looked like right out of the oven.  I wish I could photograph aroma, crunch, and flavor!

The bread was absolutely delicious, and it had the most fantastic crust I’ve ever made.  The down side:  it didn’t keep well.  By day two, the flavor had pretty much evaporated, and the crust had gone soft, so I used the remainder for bread crumbs — always useful for meat loaf for Mr. Darcy’s lunch.

Sourdough and I are old frenemies.  Sadly, I have  murdered every sourdough starter that I ever started.  Somehow, it gets overrun by its own hooch (the off-color alcoholic liquid produced by yeast), and erupts all over everything in my refrigerator.  But, now, refortified with refueled ambition, I am game to give it another go.


One of the things I never got used to was that, to feed the starter, you have to discard half of it.  I hate throwing out food.  So, this time, instead of feeding the trash, I used it for fresh blueberry sourdough waffles.  And sourdough pizza.

Fresh blueberry sourdough waffles

I must admit that, as well as  I  liked sourdough before,  after eating these waffles,  I totally get the obsession.  The waffles were amazing.  Incredibly light, and crunchy, crispy, and oh so flavorful.

Then, of course, it’s Sunday night, so pizza is on the menu.  Look at this gorgeous ball of dough!


Maybe I’m a freak, but dough and yeast bubbles make my hem flip!  Well, there’s really no “maybe” about it, is there?

sourdoughpizza-ready for oven

Oven-ready with fresh grape tomatoes halves, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, tomato sauce and crushed basil.


Mamma Mia!  Once again, the sourdough made a huge difference. The dough seemed lighter, yet crispy and very chewy.  Maybe less crunchy than standard pizza dough?   Hey, it’s all good.  It’s pizza, and there’s no contest!

And now for a a little something different:  DIY kitchen cleaner.OrangecleanerDIY

My intrepid DIL, Mrs. Popeye (or should I call her Olive Oyl?), taught me how to make my own kitchen counter cleaner.  In the mason jar, I placed  the cut up rinds of six naval oranges covered with white vinegar.  It will live under my sink for a couple of weeks.  Then I will use it to refill an empty Mrs. Meyer’s spray container, and I will have a lovely and fragrant orange and vinegar spray for wiping down my counters.  Just so you know, it’s not anti-bacterial, but, then again, neither is Mrs. Meyer’s.  This is for after the Clorox!


In praise of spring, renewal and change. And coconut oil.

IMG_3204 IMG_3203


Strawberry lemon pie — won’t this be delicious with fresh Maine blueberries next month?  King Arthur Flour recipe.


Spring had to work hard this year to break through the gloom of winter. There were snowstorms in April, and no forsythia until May.

If Spring means hope, and hope means life, then Spring began to assert itself, at last, in April in the form of renewal, change, romance and new baking experiences.  Renewal:  A dear friend visited the city, and we met for a breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, which are a childhood favorite of mine that I almost never make for myself. While tapping at the shell, I look at the beautiful and elegant woman sitting across from me.  Her rich and lively curls are held in place, but just barely, and she looks not one day older than when we were in high school.   And there I slump, feeling shabby in my Marimekko, left over from the 70s, which I’m hoping will hide the pudge, and cringing under the three lone hairs remaining on my head, and hoping she won’t notice.  But she is so not a mean girl, and her natural cheerfulness just makes me feel good to be with her.  Renewal of friendship is a sure sign of spring.

Change:  Popeye will be discharged from the service in May, and the Popeyes will be moving north to a pretty little house so close to campus that he can roll out of bed and into class. After seven years so far from home, this change of address is a sure sign of spring.

Romance:  Spring brings out the pagan in all religions, and the romantic in all the poets. My favorite blog went all out for  “the essential season,” with her evocative paintings and her richly drawn prose.  The romance of art in all its forms is a sure sign of spring.

So, in the spirit of renewal and change, I want to tell you that I have discovered coconut oil for baked goods, and I want everyone to know about coconut oil.  It was an accident.  I started to bake a batch cookies, and didn’t realize until too late that I had run out of canola oil.  (That’s why the mise en place is so important, right? Oh WELL.) There was a jar of coconut oil in my pantry, thanks to MySpiceSage.com, which had sent a sample with a recent  order.  I shrugged, used it, and held my breath.  I was amazed by the difference in texture and taste.  What a neat trick!  Here is the recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cookies, which I adapted from another favorite spice resource, The Spice House in Chicago.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

2 sticks margarine, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup coconut oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon bergamot extract (see note below**)
4 1/2 cups AP flour, sifted together with the following:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325°.
Line 4 baking sheets, if you have them,  with parchment paper. *
In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the bulleted ingredients above; set aside.
Cream margarine until light.
Add granulated sugar and keep beating until margarine and sugar combo is light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated (about 30 seconds at high speed).
Add coconut oil and bergamot extract** and mix well, but don’t overbeat.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixture one cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Using a scoop, drop batter onto a baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.  Cool and eat with an afternoon cup of tea!

*If you don’t have 4 sheets , and have to reuse them, put the remaining dough in the refrigerator while you wait to scoop, because it gets very crumbly and can be difficult to manage.

**I suspect that 1 tablespoon of very dark, brewed Earl Grey would work as a substitute for the bergamot extract, but I haven’t yet tried it, so don’t quote me!










Humpday . . . Sopa de Cocido Madrileño . . .


A Humpday Cocido Madrileño  would be great prepared ahead of time and reheated on Humpday.  It’s possible, too, that it could be done in a slow cooker, but unless you prep the night before, I’m not sure this is the best dish unless you are going to be home all day, as I was, and decided to take advantage of having the  extra time.

But wait:  Back up.  Maybe you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about?  A Cocido Madrileño is a Spanish traditional main dish stew, named for Madrid where it originated.  It is based on garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and it cooks for hours with a pig’s foot, beef stew meat, chicken, a ham bone, ham meat, bacon, carrots, turnips, onions and potatoes.  This version should be made ahead of time, but look for a pressure cooker or slow-cooker version later this month.  Spoiler alert:  it won’t have the pig’s foot!

Cocido Madrileño is really two dishes, and that’s where Humpday comes in;  it’s both a hearty cocido (stew)–the main course–and a delicious sopa (soup) as an appetizer.  For Humpday, you can make the soup alone, as if you had actually made the Cocido Madrileño.  The soup portion is usually made with savoy cabbage or swiss chard, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and fideos or any angel hair-type pasta.

A few cups of broth are removed from the Cocido Madrileño, and the cabbage is cooked in the broth with the sausages.  The pasta is added toward the end.

Here’s my official Humpday version:

1 head savoy cabbage or swiss chard
1 chorizo, sliced (Spanish, not Mexican chorizo, by the way; they are very different)
8 cups broth (meat, chicken, vegetable, or a combination)

Cut the cabbage into 8 chunks/chop up the swiss chard
Cut up the chorizo
Place the cabbage and the chorizo into a large pot with the broth. and boil until the cabbage is soft


Don’t be afraid to let it cook for hours on low heat.  The flavors really develop that way.  But, don’t let the liquid boil out. You want a lot of broth.  Break up the angel hair/fideos and add to the boiling liquid until cooked.


OK, here’s my real Humpday version, based on what I had at home:

I had roasted a red cabbage with red onions and tomatoes over the weekend, and I had some chorizo in the meat drawer.  I sliced  two ounces of  the chorizo very thin and put it in the bottom of a soup pot to sweat.  Once the chorizo was cooked, I mopped up most of the oil with a paper towel (you can leave it, of course).


Fat and paprika released from the chorizo

Chorizo cooks very fast, so don’t let it burn.


Cutting it a little close!

When it was ready I added the stock, the remains of some fresh dill,  and the red cabbage mixture.


I brought everything to a boil, and then reduced it to a simmer, using a simmer mat. After a couple of hours, I added some leftover meat (steak, pork and a couple of slices of ham — about 5 ounces in all).  I was going to add a can of garbanzos, but I didn’t have any.  So, I added some leftover roasted parsnips, and a cup of borlotti beans cooked in tomatoes that I found in the back of my refrigerator.  I smelled them; they were fine.  About two hours before serving, I added some broken up spaghetti.

IMG_2863This cooked for about five hours.  The flavors were amazing.

They are predicting a huge snow storm tomorrow, so I will cook a small pot of freekeh (always, always rinse grains before cooking!), and serve it with the leftover Cocido.    Quinoa would be fine, too, of course.

Humpday dinner and some saffron biscotti from King Arthur Flour for dessert.