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Nov 30, 2012

BBA Challenge #38 Tuscan Bread, #39 Vienna Bread, #40 White Bread, #41 Whole-Wheat Bread

The next installment about my journey baking my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. I started the project in August of 2011 (pre-blogging days) and finished in August of 2012.

BBA Challenge #38 Tuscan Bread

tuscan bread

So here's the deal about this bread. It does not contain salt. I once accidentally left salt out of a bread recipe before. Taste? Cardboard.
Nov 29, 2012

Sauteed Carrots

According to Ina Garten in Barefoot Contessa: Family Style, "These sauteed carrots are the essence of 'carrot-ness.'" Truly they are.

I've never been a big fan of cooked carrots. They've either been simmered to an overly soft consistency, or they've had so much sugar added to them that they resemble sweet potatoes. They're fine in stews or soups, but on their own? Not so much.

These carrots are wonderful. They are just barely cooked with a small amount of water so that they don't lose all of their flavor, and then tossed in salt, herbs, and butter. They stand on their own, but don't take over.

If you are serving them to kids, you just might want to set aside some to make them without the "green stuff."

Sauteed Carrots

Barely adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Family Style. (Beautiful book with wonderful recipes)
Six servings.


2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices, approximately 6 cups of carrot slices. Carrots can be peeled and sliced a day in advance. 
1/3 C water
2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 T chopped fresh parsley or dill
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper


  1. Place the carrots and the water into a 12 inch saute pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and cook for 8 minutes over low heat.
  3. Uncover, add the butter, bring the heat to medium low, and saute for about a minute, until the water is evaporated.
  4. Turn off the heat and add in the herbs, salt, and pepper, and toss. 
I kept these warm in a warming oven for about 30 minutes while putting the finishing touches on the rest of the dinner and the dish did not suffer. The leftovers were equally as good the next day. If you want to try making them in advance, wait to add the herbs until after you reheat them so that the herbs are fresh and green. 

This is going to be my "go-to" carrot recipe. Loved them. 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a Gingersnap Crust

These mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes are the perfect little holiday treat. The crust is so simple, just a gingersnap dropped into the bottom of a muffin tin, and, because these are muffin-sized, they're pretty foolproof.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a Gingersnap Crust

Even if the tops of your cheesecakes sink too much, or even crack, you can hide any flaws with a spritz of whipped cream. These little cheesecakes are also wonderful for using up any leftover pumpkin puree you might have.
Nov 25, 2012

Pocketbook Rolls | Feathery Buttery Rolls

I decided to attempt a couple of new recipes for Thanksgiving (I like adding a little suspense). One of them was this recipe for yeasted rolls. Yeasted you say? Correct. Yeasted rolls that must be baked and then served hot.

{Attendees were my husband, kids, and grandkids, so I figured I could toss them (the rolls, not my family) if they (the rolls, not my family) didn't work out. They (my family, not the rolls) are a very forgiving group of guests.}

The big trick was to make sure I got the timing right. These rolls worked out beautifully!!!!

The recipe calls for the dough to be mixed at least one day, and up to one week, in advance. The dough is unusual in that it is almost batter like when you mix it, but it emerges from the refrigerator like biscuit dough or cookie dough. It's pretty amazing how this recipe works out.

The rolls are like a cross between light and airy rolls with the flavor of biscuits... plus butter.... it's really hard to explain. You must try these. I've been using the leftovers to make "turkey and stuffing sliders." Soooo good.

Pocketbook Rolls

Yield, approximately 24 rolls. Adapted from Paulchen's Kitchen, adapted from The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas.


2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 C lukewarm whole milk
1/4 C shortening
4 T room temperature butter
1/4 C sugar 1/2 C boiling water
1 large egg, beaten
13 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 T melted butter

Mix the dough

  1. Place the yeast in the lukewarm milk and let it sit for five minutes or so. 
  2. Cream the shortening, butter, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Slowly add in the boiling water. 
  3. Add the yeast and milk mixture, continuing to mix.
  4. Beat in the egg
  5. Beat in the flour and salt and mix until all ingredients are well blended
  6. Place the dough into a bowl that is at least double the dough's size, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 to 7 days

Assemble the rolls  (about 3 hours before serving)

  1. Grease a half sheet pan.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, lightly sprinkle the dough with flour, and lightly coat a rolling pin with flour. 
  3. Roll the dough out to a scan 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Using a 2 1/2 inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and fold each round in half. 
  5. Place each roll onto the baking sheet. 
  6. Generously brush the rolls with butter. 
  7. Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. 
  8. Set aside to rise for about 2 1/2 hours. 
  9. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately.
Back story: This recipe is part of the Bread Baking Babes monthly bread baking extravaganza. Well, maybe not an extravaganza, but... well, click the link and read more. Once the Babes post the recipe, the buddies (that includes me!) can bake along with the Babes. Here is a round up of the Buddies' posts.

Many of the Babes think that these rolls look like lips. What do you think?

Nov 23, 2012

Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Dijon Cream Sauce

Beef tenderloin with red wine Dijon cream sauce

OMG, this was good.

When I was growing up, two of the houses I lived in had indoor barbecues. Actual charcoal barbecues with fireplace-type chimneys. I'm pretty sure these are illegal now what with concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. But really, how are they any different than wood burning fireplaces? I really don't know what I'm talking about... I'm just saying, I still can't believe that we had indoor charcoal barbecues. In southern California. Where you can barbecue outdoors pretty much 365.

I digress. 

One of the big treats that came from those barbecues was "chateaubriand." Doesn't that sound so French? Kind of like "filet mignon." This was before cable, the Food Network, and celebrity chefs. 

So... If I were a contestant on Jeopardy, and the clue was "An alternate name for beef tenderloin," I would say "What is chateaubriand, Alex?"

So, there you go. Oh, and filet mignons (or is it filets mignon?) come from a chateaubriand. Again! There you go. 

I digress one more time.  

Let's get to this fabulous beef tenderloin. 

I found this recipe on my friends' Deirdre and Paul's blog, East of the Equator Cafe. (Definitely check out their blog) Both Deirdre and Paul contribute, and they are both unabashed lovers of good food, wine, and recipes. 

Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Dijon Cream Sauce


1 3 to 4 pound beef tenderloin
Extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 T Kosher salt
1/4 C pepper corns coarsely-smashed 
1/2 C red wine
3 T butter
2 T dried or chopped fresh shallots
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 C heavy cream (I used half and half due to a shopping delegation "incident." It worked out fine)


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
Dry the roast with paper towels
Tie the roast with evenly spaced twine to create an evenly rounded roast
Oil the roast with olive oil and coat it with the peppercorns and Kosher salt
Heat an oven proof frying pan on high heat
Sear the meat in the pan - approximately one minute per "side."
Once each side has been browned, move the skillet to the oven, insert a meat thermometer, and bake uncovered until the meat reaches 125 degrees F for medium rare, approximately 30 minutes (watch closely)
Remove the pan from the oven and move the roast to a cutting board and tent it with foil to rest for about 15 minutes
Place the frying/baking pan over the range and turn on the burner

Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze it and scrape up all of the brown bits and pan drippings.
deglaze the pan

Nov 22, 2012

Semolina Sourdough Bread

See how the edges of the slash stick up and are all toasty? Those are bread ears. It's what we bread bakers all strive for. These are my best ever. It's amazing what gets us excited.
Nov 21, 2012

Homemade Oreo Cookies | Fauxreos

Doesn't this make you want a big glass of ice cold milk? 

Me too.

Homemade Oreos

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Retro Desserts by Wayne Brachman. Makes about 26 cookies.



1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened Dutch process cocoa. While it's not necessary, I used 1/2 regular Dutch process cocoa and 1/2 King Arthur Flour's black cocoa because it makes the cookies extra dark. 
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 sticks of softened unsalted butter
1 large egg


1/2 stick softened unsalted butter
1/4 C vegetable shortening
2 C sifted confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla


  • Space two oven racks near the middle of your oven and reheat it to 375 degrees F
  • In a food processor, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. 
  • Pulse while adding first the butter, and then the egg. Pulse until the dough forms a mass. 
  • Form rounded teaspoons of batter and place them about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. I used this small cookie scoop. It really helps to keep the cookies evenly sized. 
  • Flatten the dough with a dampened hand or the bottom of a glass. I used the pusher from my food processor to get those cool circles on top of each wafer. 
  • Bake, two sheets at a time for 9 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.
  • Smack the cookie sheets on the counter once when you remove them from the oven to let some of the air out of the cookies, and set them on a rack to cool. 
  • While the cookies are cooling, make the filling. 
  • Using a hand or stand mixer, blend the butter and shortening.
  • On low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. 
  • Beat the filling on high speed for about 3 minutes, until it is very fluffy.
  • Place the icing in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip. Alternatively, place it in a plastic storage bag and cut off the corner to pipe the icing. 
  • Pipe a scant tablespoon sized dollop of icing onto half of the cookies. 
  • Top each with another cookie and press lightly to evenly nudge the filling to the edges of each sandwich. 
Nov 20, 2012

Best-Ever Brownies | Tuesdays with Dorie

This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie group is baking a brownie recipe titled "Best-Ever Brownies" from the book Baking with Julia

This recipe involves melting chocolate and lots of butter, adding some sugar to the chocolate butter mixture, slowly adding half of the four eggs and sugar to the chocolate, whipping the other half of the eggs and sugar into a frothy concoction, folding it into the chocolate, and then folding in the flour and salt. Phew! I had to read the recipe several times just to make sure I was doing it right. Not your typical brownie recipe. 

The recipe calls for a 9 inch square pan, preferably ceramic or glass. Really? Another piece of cookware this cookware junkie with a pan habit does not have? 

I do have an enameled cast iron 9 inch square pan, so I went for it even though cast iron stays hot for quite awhile, and the brownies are supposed to cool in the pan.

I really couldn’t tell by the instructions how to determine if the brownies were done, so I pulled the brownies out at 28 minutes (the max amount of time according to the recipe) even though they were kind of liquid in the middle but set on top. I figured that the pan would stay hot and continue to cook. 

So.. are these the Best-Ever Brownies? 

They are really good actually. They are super fudgy, not at all cakey, but not necessarily chewy. A little goes a long way. While the knife inserted into them to test for doneness came out coated in batter, once the brownies cooled, they came together. I'm not sure if it was the pan or the 6 ounces of chocolate bar in the recipe. If you make this recipe, definitely allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting them.

Would I make them again? Yes!

You can find the recipe on Monica's A Beautiful Mess blog. It's a really sweet blog by the way. For more information about Tuesdays with Dorie, click here
Nov 19, 2012

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This recipe for mashed potatoes is good for those times when you are feeding a crowd and you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen mashing potatoes while you are supposed to be slicing the turkey and making the gravy. It is also great for potluck gatherings.

The potatoes can be made up to three days in advance and refrigerated. In a pinch, especially if you only have one oven, they can be partially cooked in a microwave, and then finished in the oven once you've removed the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas roast.

The cream cheese and sour cream add sort of a "twice baked potato" flavor. In my mind that's a good thing.

I know you are busy, so here is the recipe.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Serves approximately 16


5 to 6 pounds of russet potatoes
8 ounces of cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup of sour cream
1 stick of butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
paprika - optional
scallions or chives - optional


Peel and cut the potatoes into approximately 2 inch chunks
Just cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil
Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the pieces can be pierced easily with a fork, but not falling apart
Drain into a colander and return the potatoes to the pan
Mash the potatoes with a masher
Add the cream cheese, sour cream, half of the butter, garlic salt, and pepper
Mash with a masher or mix with a hand mixer until fully incorporated
Mix in optional scallions or chives
Place the potatoes into a buttered 3 quart casserole and dot the top with the rest of the butter
Sprinkle with paprika
At this point, the dish can be refrigerated up to three days, or frozen prior to baking
Bring to room temperature and bake covered in a 375 degree F oven for 50 to 60 minutes
Garnish with extra chives or green onions if you like

Nov 18, 2012

Homemade Limoncello & Tangelocello

I started this tangelocello last May and finished it in July. At that point I was so thrilled with the results that I made limoncello. Both liqueurs have been sitting in my freezer waiting to be bottled for Christmas and hostess gifts.

Limoncello (and its cousins) is wonderful by itself as an after dinner digestivo, or mixed into a cocktail such as this one. It is also wonderful on vanilla ice cream.

I found this recipe in the book, Gifts Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving by Diane Morgan for Sur la Table (one of my favorite stores). The book contains recipes for all kinds of food gifts along with gorgeous ideas for packaging them... and there are lots of fabulous photographs. If you'd like to create elegant homemade gifts for the holidays, get this book.

This recipe works for lemons, oranges, or tangelos. It's best to use organic or home grown citrus, but if it is not available, really scrub the fruit to remove any wax and pesticide residue before you remove the rind.

You will need a one gallon jar to brew this liqueur. I got mine through Amazon but you can find them at The Container Store as well. You'll also need a fine mesh strainer and a funnel. Make sure that everything you use is washed in very hot soapy water or the dishwasher.

Finally, for gifts, you will need glass bottles. I've found them at Sur la Table, Crate & Barrel, and The Container Store.

Note: The alcohol used for this recipe is Everclear or another brand of grain alcohol. In my state, I can only find the 151 proof version. If you use the 190 proof Everclear, add an additional 1/3 C of water before bottling. If you cannot obtain grain alcohol where you live, you can use 100 proof vodka and reduce the total amount of water to 5 cups.

Nov 17, 2012

Saturday Cocktail | Limoncello, Gin, & Grilled Thyme Cocktail

I hate it when people move away.

This cocktail is in honor of our friends, Jim and Michele, whom I credit with my renewed interest in cooking. I won't bore you with all of the details about how we met (work), but let's just say, we all hit it off.

They had us over for dinner, we had them over for dinner, they had us over for dinner.... next thing you know, it escalated. It was awesome.

They introduced us to Fine Cooking magazine, along with some pretty amazing music. As it turned out, we all were big fans of the same type of music. A challenge for me was to find new music they did not yet know about. I'm pretty sure I introduced them to Beirut and Kasey Chambers. They introduced us to a hell of a lot more.

And then they moved away.  Wah!

Actually, we've gotten together several times since then, so I can't complain. Love you guys. I just wish you were closer.

Nov 15, 2012

Pull-Apart Buttery Dinner Rolls

These are my favorite homemade soft dinner rolls. They're really easy to make, and the flavor is reminiscent of a traditional holiday meal. They are baked in 8 inch round cake pans, which help keep them extra soft. I've never managed to have any leftovers of these, but I'm pretty sure they would also make excellent buns for turkey sandwiches.

Pear and Almond Tart - Perfect Autumn Dessert

Recently I've been making an effort to use the ingredients and kitchen equipment I have on hand. In fact, I get a little thrill when I see a new recipe and realize that I have ALL of the ingredients in my pantry or refrigerator. I also have been doing a pretty good job avoiding buying any new specialty and single use pans (Evidence: I actually survived making popovers without buying a popover pan).

Until I saw this recipe and immediately bought a 14 by 4 1/4 inch tart pan. Isn't my new pan pretty? Sigh.

So for the rest of you who have better willpower than I do, I've done the math. An 8 inch square or 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom will do just fine.

This tart has a wonderful flavor. The pears and the ground almonds go together perfectly. The finished tart is firm enough to be cut into bars for a dessert table. I think it would be lovely topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with dulce de leche.

adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Tart Shell

1/3 C sugar
5 T butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
4.25 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1.75 ounces almond flour. (You can buy Bob's Red Mill at most grocery stores, or grind your own in the food processor, just be careful not to make almond butter)

  • Beat the sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and almond extract.
  • Stir in the almond and all purpose flour to get crumbs that stick together when pressed.
  • Pat the crumbs into the tart pan's bottom and sides and prick the crust several times with a fork.
  • Stick the crust in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
  • Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until barely browning around the edges. 
  • Allow to cool.

Tart Filling

3 T softened butter
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 C sugar
1/2 ounce unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
2.5 ounces almond flour
5 pear halves (canned or poached, I used canned, gasp!)
1 T melted butter
1 T sparkling  or granulated sugar for sprinkling
  • Beat the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract.
  • Continue beating while adding in the eggs. 
  • Add the almond flour and stir until just combined.
  • Spread the filling into the tart crust.
  • Push the pear halves into the filling.
  • Brush the pears with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. 
  • Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold.

This tart would be perfect cut into squares and served at a holiday dessert table.

Nov 11, 2012

BBA Challenge #34 Pumpernickel Bread #35 Sunflower Seed Rye

Over the course of one year, I baked the 42 recipes in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. In order. It was an excellent course in bread baking. I highly recommend doing something like this at least once.

I own a lot of cookbooks. An embarrassing amount of cookbooks. Thank goodness for Amazon Wish List and libraries, or I would be in big trouble. That being said, it was so satisfying to have finally done something like this.
Nov 8, 2012

Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies

This is a true chocolate craver's cookie. It involves lots of cocoa powder, semi sweet chocolate, sour cream, cream cheese, and malted milk powder. I do not even want to know the calorie count.

Random hints and thoughts on this recipe:

You have to place them far apart on the cookie sheet because they spread out like crazy into these flat rounds you see here. It's almost miraculous.

The filling might make an excellent cupcake frosting.

Use a portion scoop to measure out the cookies onto the cookie sheet so that they will be evenly sized. 

I'm thinking about making them smaller next time. 

Nov 7, 2012

Thanksgiving for Two & My Favorite Stuffing Ever

There's a lot going on in people's lives....

Extended families... broken families... married adult children... step families... long distances... sometimes we can't just recreate the Thanksgiving of our childhood.

When my parents got divorced, one of the things I hated was the pressure to show up everywhere on holidays. Suddenly we were all put in a situation that would automatically hurt one of our parents. It stunk. When we all got married, that added additional families to make happy.  Not fun.

One family I know moves the big meal to Saturday. Their adult children can visit the in-laws on Thursday (bonus points toward the Christmas tug-of-war) and they get plenty of extra time to prepare a fabulous feast.  I like that idea!

Nov 6, 2012

Buttermilk Crumb Muffins | Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia

On the first and third Tuesday of every month, bakers join together to bake a recipe from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan based on the PBS Series hosted by Julia Child. The book was written in 1996 and is over 400 pages of recipes from Julia's guests on the show. One of the recipes is a Martha Stewart wedding cake. Wonder when the group will make that!

The recipe chosen for this week is Buttermilk Crumb Muffins from page 207.

These muffins remind me of old school coffee cake. In fact, they are pretty old school in a lot of ways because they feature shortening and LOTS of brown sugar. In a way, they kind of taste like cinnamon crumb cake doughnuts, or even Snickerdoodles. The recipe was very easy to follow, and the muffins would make a nice treat for a brunch buffet. The recipe says they are best on the day they are made and I would agree. If you make them in advance, the author recommends warming them before serving.

Update: News flash! The muffins are actually better today (day three) after being wrapped in plastic wrap. They've gotten more moist. Magic muffins.

Click on this link to get the recipe from the host for this week, Alisa from Easier than Pie. The only variation I made to the recipe was to use buttermilk powder (I hate throwing away leftover buttermilk), which I mixed in with the dry ingredients. I used water to hydrate the ingredients.

To find out more about the group and to find other bakers' links, hop over to the Tuesdays with Dorie site.

Nov 5, 2012

Onion and Sage Focaccia

Sounds cliche, but this bread is amazing.  I'm just saying.

Onion and Sage Focaccia

Adapted from a recipe I've been wanting to try forever by Nancy Silverton and published in the Los Angeles Times


1 risen round of focaccia dough as described in my previous post.
2 ounces low moisture mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
1/2 of a large red onion cut into one inch cubes.
Olive oil to brush on the top of the bread.
1/3 C chopped sage leaves (do not chop finely).
Pinch of sea salt.

Nov 4, 2012

Roasted Pepper and Chile Focaccia

I clipped this recipe from the Los Angeles Times over a year ago. It was part of their Master Class series and featured Nancy Silverton. The clipping sat in a pile of bread recipes I have been intending to try. When it was time to suggest a recipe for the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook page's October Bread of the Month, I went for it.

What's better than a self-imposed deadline to get one to check something off of a to-do list?

What's even better is having everything needed for this focaccia in my pantry, freezer, and garden, with the exception of the tomatoes. How cool is that?

The dough for this bread is very wet, but it comes together nicely and is easy to handle. The dough recipe makes two 10 inch round breads. I made this recipe along with the onion and sage recipe (For a future post).

Note: You will need a stand mixer, a digital scale, and two 10 inch cake pans. If you don't have the cake pans, try using a rimmed sheet pan or smaller cake pans. You will need the rims to hold in the olive oil.

Another note: The recipe calls for a "sponge" that is made the day before.

Nov 2, 2012

Friday Cocktail - Gin + Lemon + Mint Martini

Michael Ruhlman, a fabulous food writer and cookbook author recently blogged about a Chicago cocktail called the Southside. I had to try it.

Gin. Lemon. Mint. This cocktail is soooooo refreshing. And I never would have thought of this combination.  The mixture of the lemon and mint is amazing. And we have a pot full of mint and a tree full of lemons growing in our little back yard. Organic! Almost like health food.

I upped the ratio of lemon juice and substituted agave for the simple syrup. Make mine. Make Ruhlman's. Or invent your own ratio. There shouldn't be a lot of controversy. I mean it's not like it's a Manhattan or a martini. Either way you will love it.

Nov 1, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Brownies, cinnamon, cheesecake, pumpkin. What a fabulous combination of flavors. This recipe is very reliable. And it is easy, easy, easy.

Okay, it does require three bowls, a mixer (I used a hand mixer), a pan, a whisk, four measuring cups, and four measuring spoons, but really, it is still very easy. I promise.