Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tradition, Key West and Cuban Bread

Tradition, an interesting word for me, after thinking that I didn’t grow up with any, I began to remember that we always had certain dishes at the holidays, corn bread dressing with oysters, cherry pie and sugar cookies. My mother didn’t particularly like to cook, and only did so out of necessity. My love of cooking developed much later in life. I’ve never cooked a holiday meal, but always bring dishes to the holiday table. Anyway enough of going down that path.
My current family’s tradition is going to Key West during the first part of December. MJOL and I always try to celebrate our anniversary there. We’ve missed a few years, (only 3) but have made 12. This year we continued tradition and were accompanied by MJOL’s sister and brother-in-law. It’s fun seeing our favorite place through someone else’s eyes. I’ve discovered through the years that people either love KWF or they don’t. We saw old friends that we meet there every year and of course made new friends that we hope to see there in the coming years. We did a sunset cruise, Hemingway’s house and many of the tourist things that we don’t do that often. My most vivid memories usually revolve around the friends, food, and relaxation. Grilled grouper with a Thai curry sauce over sushi rice at Seven Fish, Cuban roast pork with yellow rice, black beans and plantains at El Sibonay, and lobster fresh out of the sea at Pepe’s.

So, I decided to extrapolate our Key West tradition and attempt Cuban bread. Pan Cubano, that loaf with the creamy interior and crisp crust, pressed with meats and cheese. Yum. So, after a little research I found that “traditional” Cuban bread is made with lard..yikes! At the store, I found my little tub of lard and put it in my cart, carried it around the store and in the end, just had to put it back. I opted for using solid shortening, probably not much healthier, but it made me feel somewhat better. I thought it turned out well. Since most recipes called for a starter, I just used my sourdough. I can’t wait to make some Cuban roast pork and make my own Cuban sandwich.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Anna was a lovely bride, but Anna, damn 'er, up and died."

The golden-colored Anadama bread is a specialty of New England that is always made with cornmeal and molasses. Many cookbooks relate stories about the origins of its unusual name. One being the quote above that was supposedly on Anna’s tombstone. I like this one best, only because it reminds me of an epitaph on the tombstone of B. P. Roberts, a notorious hypochondriac, in one of our favorite places, Key West. “I told you I was sick.” I’m drifting slightly here because our annual trip to Key West is only 12 days away.
Anyway, Anadama bread has been around a least since 1850. According to Wikipedia, it is thought it came from the local fishing community in Rockport MA. but it may have come through the Finnish Community of local stone cutters. During the turn of the century around 1900 it was baked by a man named Baker Knowlton on King Street and delivered in a horse-drawn cart to households in Rockport by men in blue smocks.

I modified a recipe from “The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook” using my active sourdough starter. Wow, when baking, this bread smells amazing and lingers in the house for a while. It’s great toasted for breakfast and I don’t expect it to hang around for very long.

Thanks to Michelle for suggesting this historical challenge.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Public Art

P.A.I.N.T. Producing Art in Neighborhoods Together

Saturday we had the installation of some public art that was sponsored by The Center for Neighborhoods and designed for our community garden. The artists, David Bibelhauser and Lauren Argo, came to the garden and invited the gardeners, neighbors, and friends to help assemble two geodesic domes. The domes were designed to complement the garden and to show that connected we are all strong. Each piece of the dome supports a part of the whole structure’s weight. If just one piece weakens or is removed, the entire structure becomes unstable.

The day started with the installation of the dome on the lower part of the garden. This dome will eventually be covered with trumpet vines.

Throughout the day, there were workshops on composting, bee keeping, creating a community garden, and harvesting rain water.

For lunch, The San Diego Sandwich Works food truck offered great sandwiches and soup. MJOL and I had the La Jolla wrap. It was so tasty and they even substituted Havarti Cheese for me. Maybe because I said I could eat my weight in that cheese? While talking to the owners they invited me on the truck. Heaven! Cause you know I’m fascinated by food trucks. The truck has been totally redone and the electrical can run on quiet batteries instead of not so quiet generators.  Totally plumbed by a master plumber and up to code. Totally cool.

The Mayor, Greg Fischer, stopped by and helped plant some of the vines for the lower dome, and took our electric goat for a spin.

Then the installation of the upper dome started in the afternoon. This dome has painted canvas panels, with colors taken from the garden logo, to provide shade. When the dome was finished it was dedicated by our Councilperson, Tina Ward Pugh. A beautiful fall day.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Food Truck Round Up

Last night MJOL and I hopped on down to the First Friday Trolley Hop. Mainly because we knew that there would be food trucks at the Main Street Garden. Now, given the chance, in a former life, I would be a food truck chef. They fascinate me. Don’t know why, but serving gourmet food out of a truck..could be fun.
 We decided to partake of Lil Cheezers. We both ordered the Caprese.  Mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic reduction and a little garlic, served on wheatberry bread. It was so very tasty. Alongside was a homemade curried catsup that I really enjoyed, sweet, a little spicy..yum. (MJOL was not such a fan.) The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the potatoes that came with. They were a little greasy, soggy and lukewarm. Could have left them off and it would have been fine. But, the sandwich made up for that. I was licking my fingers!

 Holy Mole truck was there,

along with Mozza Pi

and the San Diego Sandwich Works.

It was a beautiful evening and after eating we walked along Market Street and enjoyed all the festivities. We visited the Bodega, which was hopping at the hop, what a great place and we plan to return there soon. We watched a glass blowing and forming exhibition at Flamerun that was way cool. The artists made a large apple. We strolled past the Garage, man that place was jumping, and then stopped by the Fairness table to chat with Chris for a minute.

Bellies full and minds expanded we made our way home to get rested up for our Community Garden Harvest Festival happening this Sunday.

It was a great Friday night.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Il Bollo

Whose bread I eat: his song I sing.
German Proverb

 It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of our two year bread baking journey. We’ve made many loaves, some we liked, some we didn’t. We’ve shared happy times, and sad times. We’ve gained knowledge and distributed it. What a great gift. Thanks to Michelle at BigBlackDogs for her leadership and hard work at keeping us going. Here’s hoping we all continue forward with new projects, individually or as a group.

For this final assignment I made Il Bollo, a festive Italian bread, traditionally eaten to break the fast of Yom Kippur. Enriched with eggs and made with honey, lemon, vanilla, and anise, the aroma while it was baking was amazing and very comforting. Although it sounds like it would be a sweet bread, for me it really wasn’t. I liked this bread very much, and we are having it tonight with Eggplant Parmesan (with the final eggplants from the garden.) I’m sure there will be plenty left over to toast for breakfast.

Until our next baking adventure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Apples and Honey Whole Grain Challah

Our challenge for HBin5 this time was an apple and honey whole grain challah. Being a beekeeper, how could I not attempt this one? This dough came together easily and after leaving it in the refrigerator overnight I pulled it out to make my bread. This was one of the stickiest doughs that I’ve made so far in the challenge. I was hoping to do a traditional braid, but once I handled the dough, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So, I took the easy way out and put it in loaf pans. This was a very light and airy bread, and I sent one loaf off with MJOL to share at a meeting he was attending. I sliced it up for easy serving and had to have a few of the wayward crumbs. It is very good and I think it will toast up very nicely.

We have an abundance of bread in the kitchen this week. I made my regular 2 sourdough loaves and now this extra loaf also. But, is that really a problem? I don’t think so.

Until our next baking adventure.

Monday, September 5, 2011

No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread

This time for our challenge I decided to try a recipe that I’ve saved from the back of my King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour bag. I’ve always wanted to try it and it seemed like a good time. It is more of a batter bread and easy to mix up. After mixing it rises for 90 minutes.
 Well, of course I couldn’t just make it totally like the recipe. I didn’t have any orange juice, but I did have pomegranate juice left over from our last challenge, so I used that. The dough (or batter) rose well, but when baked it flattened out. I think that next time maybe I won’t let it rise for the whole 90 minutes. It tastes great toasted.

Until our next baking adventure.

BTW, some bounty from my garden.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Warning: PG Rated Post

Well, not really.
Last week, Ray, the guy who gave us our rabbits, called to request a favor. He wanted to know if we still had our rabbits (we do) and if he could bring over one of his females to mate with our male, Hemingway. We agreed.

So far we have not bred our rabbits. What to do with all those little bunnies?

 Anyway, we have Florida Whites, a smaller rabbit breed, around 5 lbs. Hemingway is even a little smaller maybe around 4 lbs or so. Ray brought over his female, Charcoal, a beautiful, dark gray, almost chocolate bunny. However, she is around 8 lbs, even bigger then our little Yorkie. Well, Hemingway was more than agreeable, and Charcoal was somewhat ambivalent, but not adverse to the attention. Poor Hemingway tried every which way he could, but just couldn’t connect. After a while he wore himself out without being successful. If you’ve ever seen rabbits mate…you know when they connect! So much for the term ******* like bunnies.

 Now, after this experience, we’ve decided to mate one our females, Bette, with Hemingway. Bette is our feisty bunny. She grunts and bats at you when you reach in her hutch. Ray said that mating her would probably calm her down. He also said that he would take two of the female babies, and help us place the rest. So, on to a new and exciting adventure.

Update: 09/05/2011 Today I think we were successful with Bette and Hemingway. So the first week of October we will see!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brown Rice and Prune Bread

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and I’m glad to be back. The garden has been keeping us very busy.
Well, I used the brown rice, but substituted raisins for the prunes, and pomegranate juice for the prune juice. So, maybe the title should be Brown Rice, Raisin and Pomegranate Bread?

 Anyway, I thought it was very good. We had it toasted for breakfast. But, now thinking about it, how about with some spicy mustard, smoked turkey, creamy Havarti cheese and fresh tomato slices? Ok, next time that’s on the menu.

Cool thing happened in our community garden; we received a grant from our Councilperson, Tina Ward Pugh, for an all electric zero turn riding lawn mower. It is so nice; it will cut about an acre on a charge. We had a great press conference with the Mayor, Tina, our garden board of directors and gardeners, loads of fun. If you have never driven one of these puppies, they are a little hard to handle. MJOL got the hang of it right off the bat, but for me it is a little counter intuitive. But hey, chasing friends and family around the back yard with it can be fun!
Until our next baking adventure.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Confessions of a Bread Machine User

Hi, my name is Elwood and I have used a bread machine.

…Hello Elwood…

Yes, I will admit it; from time to time I have used my bread machine. And yes, when someone asks if I use a bread machine to bake my breads, I act somewhat indignant. My machine was a gift, but I’ve heard a lot of people say they bought them at yard sales. I’ve also heard some people say they have put them in yard sales. Most of the time my Breadman Ultimate sits on the kitchen self, but like every kitchen tool there are times when it is useful.

In the 10 years I’ve had my machine I’ve probably used it around 15 times. All this musing came about due to a bread making class. I’ve taken several classes and at least one participant asks about baking in a machine…pause for some fake indignity…Really, though, the machine works well for making dough. I have rarely used it to actually bake the bread, partly because of the finished shape and partly because I just like to feel my dough. I am all about the tactile. It’s a great tool for handling wet dough and holds a great temperature for the first rise. Don’t believe that you can make great bread by just adding ingredients and presto..bread though. I usually open the lid while it’s kneading and check the dough…too wet?....too dry? Make adjustments.

My machine has a trap door where you can put things to be kneaded in during the last part of the process. Raisins, Cranberries, nuts..whatever. It does a great job with that. When the dough cycle is done, I take it out, shape it, let it rise and then bake it in the oven. Are most people any the wiser? Probably not, most everyone is just amazed that you baked bread.

I decided to make a cranberry pistachio bread, a variation of a raisin bread that is in my bread machine cook book (gasp! Yes I have one). RusticEuropean Breads from your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and DianaCollingwood Butts. This bread starts with a biga that’s mixed in the machine and left overnight. The final bread came out well. But, let’s just keep the process our little secret.

Until our next baking adventure.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beer Bread

Bread, slightly sweetened with honey, and beer, what could be wrong with that? I made the beer bread for our assignment this time around. I found this dough really easy to work with, but I thought it was a little dry..well, if I had actually used the right amount of beer it probably wouldn’t have been as dry. Gotta watch that halving of the recipe don’t you?

I had made some red beans and rice, and doesn’t that go with beer bread? A good friend brought some fresh asparagus; literally pick an hour before I steamed it…yummy.

BTW, has anyone been watching, TLC’s Extreme Couponing? I’m a totally hooked.

Until our next baking adventure.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Every Weekend Sourdough Loaves

Instead of making the pumpernickel and braided loaf that was our assignment this time, I just decided to make my normal every weekend sourdough bread. I know, kind of a wimp out but, rye just doesn’t go over very well here at our house.

I try to make 2 sourdough loaves every weekend for us to use during the week. I start with ½ cup of my cold starter and then activate it by adding 1 ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of room temp water. Let that work for 12 hours or so at room temp and then add 1 cup flour and ¼ cup room temp water. After another 12 hours it’s ready. Use it all and make your favorite bread. It will raise the dough in anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.

After activation


After Rise


 Last week we went thrifting for some props for my photos. Here’s what we got for less than 10 dollars. Can’t wait to photograph them.

Until our next baking adventure.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Whole Grain Rye Bread

Isn’t it interesting that our challenge this time around for HBin5 was rye, and in my bread baking class this week we made rye. Both pretty much standard, rye flour, bread four and of course caraway seeds. I like rye, MJOL not so much, but he did want to cut it and try it while it was still warm. Isn’t that a universal desire? But, as we are always told, if you cut it while it’s warm, it will be gummy. OK, I get it, but warm bread, smeared with butter, sometimes you just have to go for it.

This dough was a little sticky, but I’ve often found rye to be that way. Adding too much more flour is always a temptation that I have to squelch. This bread smelled really good while it was baking and I thought it turned out well. I am giving it away as a gift today, since I have 2 loaves of sourdough and another loaf of rye already in the kitchen.

Until our next baking adventure.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Photography Class

Recently I started a digital photo class to help me make my blog pictures better. Leslie, the instructor, is fun, knowledgeable, and makes the class interesting. The class is held at Spot5artstudio on Frankfort Avenue in the historic Clifton Neighborhood. They offer several types of classes on a rolling basis. If you get a chance stop in and say hello.

My class is 6 weeks long and so far we have covered camera controls, color and light temperature. I’m having a great time. Here is one of my most recent class photos.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wheat Buns and Baked Pasta

Our assignment this time for the HBin5 challenge was a gluten-free boule and cheddar sesame cracker. I have to say I wimped out on this one, knowing that getting the herd here to eat a gluten free loaf would be a near impossible feat. So, I made wheat rolls from the King Arthur flour Whole Grain Baking book. Easy and I had all the ingredients on hand. This is very nice dough to work with and they came out so nice. We had them last night with baked ww rotini, and then again today for lunch as pimento cheese sandwiches. Very tasty.

Baked Rotini

1 box (12oz) ww rotini
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tub (15oz) ricotta cheese
4 cups mozzarella cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
4 oz goat cheese
1 jar (26oz) pasta sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt a pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 inch pan.

Prepare the rotini just shy of al dente, usually 10 to 11 minutes for me. Brown the ground beef. Mix the ricotta, goat cheese, 3 cups of the mozzarella, pasta sauce, and spices together. Stir in the ground beef and the pasta. If the mixture is too dry add some of the pasta cooking water. Pour into prepared pan. Combine the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

Of course you can change up this recipe anyway you want. Different shapes of pasta, different cheeses, different spices etc. This time I used roasted tomato sauce that I had made and frozen from the garden. I also added a little garam masala, an Indian spice blend with cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cloves. If you like it spicy add some red pepper flakes or chilies. It’s all good.

Until our next baking adventure..

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dilled Rye with White Whole Wheat and 100% Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust

Our HBin5 challenge this time around was Dilled Rye with White Whole Wheat and Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust. Both of these breads have rye flour and I’ve discovered that people either like rye or they don’t. I’m a fan, but MJOL, not so much. I love rosemary’s strong assertive flavor, but again, MJOL’s not hip on the herbs for the most part, something about them smelling like dirty socks…huh? Anyway I digress.

I was looking forward to the Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls. I like rosemary, I like potatoes, I like salt..hmmm recipe for perfection right? Didn’t really work for me. I liked the texture of the bread itself, but the texture of the potato chunks after baking was a little weird. Would I make them again? Probably not.

The Dilled Rye was a good bread, with nice texture and crumb, but I thought the dill flavor was muted. I used dried, so maybe that made a difference. But all in all I liked it.

Until our next baking adventure…

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

WW Flaxseed and Roasted Garlic Breads

Well, the garden is all tucked in, covered in a blanket of snow. The bees are clustered around their most precious resource, the queen, keeping her warm and protected until next sping when she will start in ernest to replenish the hive.

I've come out of retirement and starting working as a medical case manager for a non profit, doing case management for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Sometimes heart rendering, sometimes heart warming, but always interesting. So, my baking efforts have been on the back burner (or maybe back oven?) while I get use to working again.

This time our goal was to make Whole Wheat Flaxseed Bread and Roasted Garlic Bread. I love flax and I love garlic, so how could I resist jumping back in this time around. Both loaves were very good. I made pasta with sauce and both breads were great, toasted up with a parsley butter. Yum!

Until our next baking adventure...