Feb 28, 2013

Buttermilk Cottage Dill Bread

Buttermilk Cottage Dill Bread

This is a mild whole wheat bread with a lovely combination of fresh dill, onion, buttermilk, and believe it or not, cottage cheese. It's leavened with both yeast and a bit of baking soda. It's super soft, super moist, and is wonderful toasted with cheddar or butter.

Feb 25, 2013

Assyrian Spinach Pies | Syrian Sabanrhiyat

Assyrian Spinach Pies, or Syrian Sabanrhiyat, are little packets of yeasted dough filled with spinach, onions, dried cherries, feta, lemon zest and juice, pepper, toasted walnuts, and olive oil.

Assyrian Spinach Pies - little packets of dough filled with spinach, onions, cherries, and feta

These Assyrian Spinach pies are about the size of a bagel, and are filled with a delicious filling.

A key ingredient to these Syrian Sabanrhiyat is mahlab, a powder made from the seed of the St. Lucy's cherry. I found it in my local Middle Eastern market.

Feb 24, 2013

Kimmelweck Rolls

Kimmelweck Rolls

Kimmelweck Rolls are a staple in western New York state, particularly in the Buffalo and Rochester areas. They are essentially a Kaiser roll with caraway seeds and salt on top. they are used to make "beef on weck," a sandwich filled with thinly sliced juicy roast beef.

Kimmelweck Rolls

I'm not sure what the magic is, but these rolls have an amazing flavor. They also fill your house with a wonderful aroma when they are baking.

Kimmelweck Rolls

I used fleur del sel for the salt topping, but I'm sure kosher salt would do.  I recommend getting the barley malt syrup rather than honey. It does make a difference (at least to me).

Feb 20, 2013

General Tso's Chicken

This General Tso's Chicken is reminiscent of New York City Chinese take out from the 20th century. It's sweet, spicy, and crispy. It's completely delicious too.

This General Tso's Chicken is reminiscent of New York City Chinese take out from the 20th century. It's sweet, spicy, and crispy. It's completely delicious too.

It's almost the last day of the fifteen days of Chinese New Year, and a new wok somehow landed on my doorstep in a box that had a smiley arrow on it. How does this keep happening?

This General Tso's Chicken is reminiscent of New York City Chinese take out from the 20th century. It's sweet, spicy, and crispy. It's completely delicious too.

I think it might have something to do with listening to an old Splendid Table podcast with Ming Tsai as the guest talking about the virtues of using a wok.

The first dish I tried was this vegetable stir fry. Loved it.

For my next try, I decided to be adventurous and try deep frying in the wok. I am more than excited about how this chicken turned out, and it was really easy. We served it with rice and a salad, and it was a wonderful meal. The chicken was so incredibly crispy.

Update: February, 2017, four years later! This is still one of my favorite dishes. I've updated the photos for this post for the Year of the Rooster, but left this photo below from my original post. If you follow this blog, you know that I've been stir-frying for four years now! I can't believe this is was my second stir-fry in my wok. Here's one of the original photos.

This General Tso's Chicken is reminiscent of New York City Chinese take out from the 20th century. It's sweet, spicy, and crispy. It's completely delicious too.

General Tso's Chicken

About 3 servings if it is the only main course... more if you are serving several dishes (like Chinese takeout!)  Adapted with permission from Appetite for China, and The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and Easy Dishes to Prepare at Home. Here is a link to the original recipe.

Yield: 4 servings if you are serving several dishes

General Tso's Chicken


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs sliced into one inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups (for frying) plus 1 T (for stir frying) peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 generous tsp red chili flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp chili paste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch


  1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk to dissolve the cornstarch. Set aside. 
  3. In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Toss in the marinated chicken pieces to coat with the cornstarch mixture and place the pieces on a plate to "stage" them for frying. 
  5. Heat the three cups of oil in the wok to 350 degrees F. In two or three batches, (three for me), fry the chicken pieces for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown and fully cooked through. 
  6. using a spider or slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat. 
  7. Pour the oil into a heat proof container, and wipe out the wok (don't wash it). 
  8. Reheat the wok with 1 T of oil over medium to high heat. 
  9. Add the chili flakes and garlic and cook for 20 seconds. 
  10. Add the sauce and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. 
  11. Add the chicken pieces and stir until coated with the sauce. 
  12. Place the coated chicken pieces in a serving dish and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and scallions. 

Enjoy! I was thrilled with this dish.

Disclosure: For this post, I am joining the Chinese New Year Virtual Pot Luck hosted by Diana Kuan, to celebrate the release of her first cookbook, The Chinese Takeout Cookbook.  U.S. based participants in the Chinese New Year Potluck will receive a copy of the book. 

This General Tso's Chicken is reminiscent of New York City Chinese take out from the 20th century. It's sweet, spicy, and crispy. It's completely delicious too.

Feb 19, 2013

Boca Negra Cake | Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia

Boca Negra

This cake looks innocent enough sitting here on this plate. It's not.

I'm not sure how this works, but it does. I took some of this to work today, and someone said.. and I quote.... "this is so good... I don't even like chocolate... this is sooo good."

It's not a flourless chocolate cake. There are actually 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour in it. The cake consists of bittersweet chocolate, eggs, bourbon, sugar, and lots of butter. One nine inch cake serves 12.. or maybe more.  It's very dense.

Boca negra

Think chocolate souffle, crossed with dense brownie, crossed with fudge, crossed with lava cake. And topped with a white chocolate cream. I don't know how else to describe it.

boca negra

The recipe offers two mixing alternatives. I made this cake batter in a food processor. To use the food processor method, you place chopped bittersweet chocolate in the bowl, pour in the boiling bourbon and sugar mixture, add in butter, one slice at a time, and then add in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the flour. Pour the batter into a cake pan and bake for exactly 30 minutes. Done.

The only drama might be the process of removing the cake from the pan, described here.

The only thing I did differently was to add about 1/8 tsp of salt to the flour before adding it to the batter.

I also added a pinch of salt to the white chocolate cream.

boca negra

The recipe was contributed by Lora Brody to the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  While you are supposed to create the white chocolate cream topping the day before, this really isn't necessary as it will set up pretty quickly. Other than chopping the chocolate, this cake takes very little time to create, and it bakes in 30 minutes. If you make it a day in advance, you can microwave the servings for a few seconds to warm them if you like.

To get the recipe, visit our Tuesdays with Dorie host, Cathy of A Frederick Food Garden. She's got the scoop on her site.

To see all of the TWD bakers' results, visit the links here.

Make this recipe for chocolate lovers in in your circle. They will LOVE you.

Changes I made: I added some salt to both the topping and the cake.
Changes I would make: I'd cut the topping recipe in half, or skip it and top the cake with whipped cream or cream Anglais.

boca negra

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Feb 17, 2013

Ovaltine Macarons

Ovaltine macarons

I've had my ups and downs with macarons. I had beginner's luck with my first and second batches, which gave me a sense of false confidence. Then my third batch cracked... baking sheet after baking sheet cracked.. and cracked... and cracked.

I am competitive (it runs in my family). This sort of thing becomes an obsession. I ended up taking a class at Sur la Table, which was both confidence building and a lot of fun. I highly recommend it.  I got to ask a billion questions as well as practice "macaronnage," the technique of mixing almond flour and meringue. I still approach baking macarons with a little bit of fear, but the class really helped.

I still park myself in front of the oven with the light on while the first batch bakes, just to see if I get "feet" (the crinkly part) and un-cracked shells.

I love the flavor of chocolate malt, so when I saw this recipe, I had to give these a try. These are filled with chocolate ganache, which goes nicely with the malt and almond flavor of the shells.

Ovaltine macarons

Ovaltine Macarons

Inspired by Daydreamer Desserts

Note: Using a scale is essential for making macarons. They are not very expensive. If you bake, get one. You won't regret it. And it will save you a lot of time in dishwashing. 

Second note: On a piece of parchment paper, draw 1 1/3 inch circles to use as a pattern template. Place this paper under the parchment paper that you will use to bake the shells. Slide it out from under the top piece of parchment prior to baking the shells. 



175 grams powdered sugar
25 grams Ovaltine
110 grams almond flour
90 grams egg whites (from three to four eggs)
Pinch of cream of tartar
25 grams granulated sugar


Your favorite chocolate frosting will work here. I used a ganache filling. 


  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • In a food processor, pulse the powdered sugar, Ovaltine, and almond flour together. 
  • Sift the dry ingredients through a sieve into a bowl. Discard any large pieces.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, whisk the egg whites and the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar. Once the sugar has been added, scrape the bowl, and increase the speed to high and whisk until the egg whites are stiff and form glossy peaks.
  • Sift the almond flour mixture 1/3 at a time over the egg white mixture and fold it in using a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny and drips slowly from the spatula. 
  • Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain round pastry tip and pipe into 1 1/3 inch rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets. Slam the sheets onto the counter to release any trapped air. Let the rounds sit for 30 minutes, or until no longer sticky on the surface. 
  • Stack the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet and bake, one sheet at a time, about 15 to 18 minutes, rotating half way through. 
  • Let the macarons cool on the baking sheets for a couple of minutes. Transfer the shells to a wire rack and cool completely. 
  • Pipe the filling onto one of the shells, and top with another shell. 
  • Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator up to one week. 

Feb 16, 2013

Asparagus, Pea, & Leek Stir-Fry

This asparagus, Pea, & Leek Stir Fry is fresh and crisp, and the recipe is wonderful to make during asparagus season. 

Asparagus, Pea, & Leek Stir-Fry

This asparagus, pea, and leek stir-fry has two kinds of peas... sugar snap peas and petite peas... and it's so green!! 

Feb 14, 2013

Friday Cocktail | Tangelocello Martini (or Orangecello)

tangelocello martini

This cocktail takes about three months to make. But it's worth it.

First you make tangelocello.

Or.... you could just buy a lovely bottle of orangecello, some good gin, and a few tangerines or tangelos, and call it a day.  I vote yes for that.

orangecello martini

We have no yard, but somehow have about 6 or 7 citrus trees. Three are planted in the ground and making do with a few square feet of clay. The rest are in pots. All of these trees are producing an amazing amount of fruit. Tangelos, Mandarin oranges, Bearss limes, and Meyer lemons. Vitamin C is covered.

Tangelocello Martini

Makes one cocktail


1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce tangelocello or orangecello
1 ounce fresh tangelo, tangerine, or orange juice
1 or 2 dashes of orange bitters (optional)
citrus slice garnish


Chill a martini glass in the freezer
Fill a martini shaker with ice and add the gin, cello, juice, and bitters
Shake until fully chilled and strain into the chilled glass
Garnish with a wheel of citrus


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Whole Wheat Sourdough with Toasted Walnuts and Cracked Wheat

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Toasted Walnuts and Cracked Wheat

This is the perfect bread to serve with flavorful cheeses and pâtés, along with fall fruits, such as apples, pears, and grapes. It is great thinly sliced and toasted. The crust is nice and crunchy, and the crumb has a wonderful toasted walnut flavor. 

It's also makes great toast with breakfast. Very hearty and satisfying with fried eggs. 

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Toasted Walnuts and Cracked Wheat

I adapted this recipe quite a bit from a recipe I found in Amy's Bread, a book about bread that I wholeheartedly recommend. 

The original recipe calls for a biga starter, whole wheat or rye berries, and making two one pound loaves in a steam oven. Instead of the biga, I used my 100% hydration sourdough starter. Instead of the berries, I used cracked wheat, and instead of the two one pound loaves in the steam oven, I made a 2 pound boule in a cast iron Dutch oven. I had to make some adjustments to the amount of flour from the original recipe since the water/flour ratio of my starter is different from the biga starter in the book. It's also hard to judge how much water the cracked wheat has absorbed. Just keep your flour and water ready, and add them by tablespoons to adjust for the variables (including the weather!).

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Toasted Walnuts and Cracked Wheat


57 g / 2 oz 105 to 115 degree F water
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
8 ounces of cool water
8 ounces of mature 100% ratio sourdough starter
1 T honey
1 T vegetable oil
85 g / 3 oz cooked cracked wheat (simmer for about 20 minutes. Can be kept in the refrigerator overnight)
255 g / 9 oz whole wheat flour
128 g / 4.5 oz unbleached bread flour plus an extra 75 g (about 5 T) of flour to add to the dough if it's too wet. 
3 T course corn meal or polenta
1 T kosher salt
6 ounces of toasted walnut pieces (toast on a sheet pan in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes. Can be done in advance)


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water and yeast. Let rest for five minutes. 
  • Add the cool water, the sourdough starter, honey, and oil and mix with a dough whisk or large wooden spoon. 
  • Add the cracked wheat and continue stirring.
  • Add the dry ingredients, stir until combined, and then knead with the dough hook for seven to ten minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Adjust the flour and water as you knead. 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Add the walnuts and knead on low until just combined.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and allow to rise until doubled, about two hours.
  • Form the loaf into a large boule, place it seam side up into a floured banneton (or a bowl lined with a heavily floured tea towel), and allow to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. Note, I mixed brown rice flour and whole wheat flour to dust the banneton
  • In the meantime, place the Dutch oven in the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees F.
  • When the dough is ready, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and dump the dough out into it. Slash the dough with a sharp serrated knife, cover, and place back in the oven. 
  • Bake the loaf, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Removed the Dutch oven from the oven and carefully remove the partially baked loaf. Place the loaf on a sheet pan, reduce the oven to 400 degrees F, and bake the loaf for another 15 to 20 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F. 
  • Cool the bread on a cooling rack for at least 90 minutes before slicing. 

Side note: We all have assumptions about what we like and don't like, and in many cases, it precludes of from giving these foods a second chance (or even a first chance). For me that was nuts in bread. I'm now reformed. 

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Feb 11, 2013

Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

sourdough sandwich bread

Most of the time, I like making big crusty loaves of lean sourdough, but sometimes it's nice to have a loaf that produces evenly shaped slices for sandwiches. This bread is the best of both worlds (and it makes excellent grilled cheese sandwiches).

This bread is also very good at helping us practice "delayed gratification." The dough requires about six hours of rising. Studies have shown (citation should go here) that individuals who are good at delayed gratification are more successful (it has something to do with toddlers and marshmallows). I vote for baking more sourdough bread just to practice delayed gratification.

It's worth the wait.

sourdough sandwich bread

Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Adapted from Wild Yeast. Makes two one-pound loaves.


622 g bread or unbleached all purpose flour
323 g water
16.2 g salt
65 g room temperature unsalted butter
31 g honey
33 g milk powder
411 g fed 100% hydration sourdough starter


  • Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer on low with the dough hook until it comes together. Add more flour or water by tablespoons as needed. If it is humid, start with about 300 grams of water.
  • Mix at medium speed for about seven to ten minutes. 
  • Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and allow to to rise for three hours, doing a stretch and fold (see the video in this post for a demonstration of the technique) at the one hour and two hour mark.
  • Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. 
  • Form the dough halves into rolls, spray with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. 
  • Spray two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 bread pans with spray oil. 
  • Shape the dough into loaves by flattening it, tightly rolling it (imagine a jelly roll with no jelly), and placing it into the loaf pans. 
  • Spray the loaves with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until the dough crests by about 1 1/2 inches above the top of the pan, about 3 hours. 
  • Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on the lower middle rack of your oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a broiler pan on the lowest rack. 
  • Place the loaf pans on the baking stone or rack, pour one cup of boiling water into the broiler pan, and shut the oven door. Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. 
  • Bake the loaves for 25 minutes, removing the steam pan at 15 minutes. 
  • Remove the loaves from the pans and place them directly on the stone. If you don't have a stone, place them on a sheet pan. This will brown the crust. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes more, until golden brown, and the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees F. 
  • Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Feb 9, 2013

Italian Challah

Back in January, 2012, Anthony, a member of the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook page, posted this recipe for our Bread of the Month. He calls it Italian Challah because, while the recipe is his Italian grandmother's egg bread (Nana's egg bread), it is remarkably similar to a challah recipe he found in a 1960s cookbook. Anthony is a professional baker (and a cool guy) so who am I to question the name?

Italian Challah


500 g unbleached all-purpose flour
11 g kosher salt
10 g active dry yeast
15 g extra virgin olive oil
15 g sugar
215 g warm water (120 - 130 degree F range)
1 large egg
1large egg yolk
1 large egg for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)


  • Prepare a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan with spray oil.
  • Add the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add the egg and the egg yolk.
  • Add the water.
  • Stir the mixture in the bowl with a large spoon or dough whisk just to moisten the dry ingredients.
  • Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on the lowest settings for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Knead the dough with the dough hook for 15 minutes at the speed you normally use for bread that doesn't strain your mixer. 
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise until doubled.
  • Divide the dough into three even pieces, shape into long strands, and braid the strands. 
  • Tuck the ends of the braid under, if your braid is longer than the pan, and place the dough in the pan. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double. The dough should crest above the top of the pan. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place a pan on the lowest rack. 
  • Whisk the egg and brush over the dough. Sprinkle with the optional seeds. 
  • Place the loaf on a rack above the empty pan, and toss some water into the empty pan to create steam. 
  • Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, rotating the loaf at 10 minutes.
  • De-pan the loaf and bake for 5 minutes more on a sheet pan to brown the lower crust. Loaf should reach an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees F. 
  • Cool completely on a wire rack. 
  • Enjoy! Thank you Anthony!

Feb 8, 2013

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This is one of my favorite straight up chocolate cookies. They are pretty incredible, and incredibly easy to make. This cookie is really just a small amount of chocolate cookie dough holding together a collection of chocolate chips and chunks. Seriously. Only 1 3/4 cups of flour to make three dozen cookies. The texture is sort of a cross between a brownie and a cookie. So good.

Feb 6, 2013

Chili con Carne

I had sent my son home with about three cups of this chili, and about three hours later, I got a text from him saying "The chili is really good." About three minutes later, I got another text from him saying "Thank you." Sweet. I took a picture of it on my phone.

chili con carne

This chili is full of chunks of tender beef. It would also make a wonderful filling for soft tacos, quesadillas, or burritos. it can be made with or without beans.

If you like your chili meaty, give this one a try.

chili con carne

Chili con Carne

6 to 8 servings. Adapted from the February/March, 2008 edition of Cook's Country


1 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (I used Embasa) plus 2 tsp of extra sauce from the can
4 slices of bacon, cooked, drained, and finely chopped, with 3 T bacon fat drippings reserved
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and pepper
jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
3 T chile powder (I used medium)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 C water
1 T brown sugar
2 T yellow corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy)
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)


  • Blend the tomatoes and the chipotles in the bowl of a food processor. 
  • Dry the beef with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of bacon drippings until very hot and brown half of the meat. Transfer the meat to a bowl.
  • Heat another tablespoon of bacon fat in the Dutch oven and brown the rest of the meat. Transfer to the bowl. 
  • Add the last tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan and add the onions and jalapeños and cook for about 5 minutes. 
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the water, tomato puree, bacon, beef, and brown sugar.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for an hour. 
  • Turn of the heat and let rest for five to ten minutes.
  • Skim of the fat with a large shallow spoon, turn the heat back on, and simmer on low, uncovered, for 45 minutes. 
  • Measure one cup of the chili liquid into a medium bowl and stir in the corn muffin mix. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for one minute. It should have thickened. 
  • Stir the mixture into the chili and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened. 
  • Add the optional beans if desired. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serving recommendations

Can be served with fresh onions, cheese, crema, cilantro, and tortillas. Enjoy!

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Feb 5, 2013

Focaccia | Tuesdays with Dorie


This week the Tuesdays with Dorie group is baking focaccia. This recipe was created by Craig Kominiak, one of the contributing bakers for the book, Baking with Julia (as in Child) edited by Dorie Greenspan, and based on the PBS series of the same name. I've been having a lot of fun viewing the various videos online before baking the dish of the week.


Focaccia you say? I do have some experience making focaccia, (see my post on roasted pepper and chili focaccia, onion and sage focaccia, fresh berry focaccia (which actually involves this dough), and Bread Baker's Apprentice focaccia.

This dough consists of flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil, and is mixed for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer until it is glossy and elastic. Judging from the PBS video of Craig Kominiak making this bread, I would guess that my dough was a little more hydrated than his. I chose to leave it that way because I wanted to see if I could develop a very airy focaccia.


How did this recipe differ from the description in the book? Well, my first rise took 15 minutes when it was supposed to take an hour and a half! What? I checked and rechecked the yeast amount and know I was accurate so I have no idea why this happened. My second rise took 20 minutes while it was supposed to take about an hour. Yikes! This one liter of dough was suddenly 4 liters.

At this point, the dough is divided into three pieces, bagged, and cold fermented over night in the refrigerator to develop flavor.

What did I do differently from the recipe? Instead of baking the breads on the baking stone, I baked mine on oiled quarter sheet pans. I even baked one in the toaster oven. (The same one in which I baked my last post, the Boston cream pie. I'm still very excited to find out that my toaster oven can properly bake cakes and breads). Actually, the one baked in the toaster oven baked faster and browned better. Hmmm.  Also, rather than stretch and slash the dough to get it to the desired size as described in the book, I used my fingertips to dimple it and slowly coax it to the edges of the pan.

Suggested way to season the focaccia breads:  Infuse some olive oil with crushed red peppers and brush it on top of the breads. Sprinkle the loaves with some chopped fresh rosemary and sage, a light dusting of crushed dehydrated onion and garlic, and a light sprinkling of sea salt. So good.

For the complete recipe:  Please visit Wandering Through...  To see others' experiences and ideas with this recipe, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie site and check out the links.

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Feb 3, 2013

Boston Cream Pie | Avid Baker's Challenge

Boston Cream Pie

Each month of 2013, the Avid Bakers are baking a different recipe from King Arthur Flour.  This month's recipe is Boston Cream Pie.

Boston cream pie

Boston cream pie is a traditional American dessert that has a very long history. In fact, it has its own Wikipedia page, and is the official dessert of Massachusetts.

The yellow cake itself does not include a lot of oil or butter, and gets all of its richness from eggs and milk. It is baked as a single layer, sliced in half, filled with rich pastry cream, and covered in a chocolate ganache.

The most difficult part of making this cake is making the pastry cream. The cake and ganache were both really easy.

If you've seen this post, you know that my oven's computer went haywire and developed a mind of its own (It's getting fixed Tuesday, yay!). So... because this cake is baked in a single 9 inch cake pan, I decided to see if my toaster oven was up to actually baking it. Guess what? It was! In fact, the cake was done five minutes early.

Recipe Notes:

You will need a 9 inch cake pan, a strainer, a good whisk, and a long bread knife (to slice the cake in half). I used a stand mixer to mix the cake, but a hand mixer is fine. 

I used King Arthur Flour's Unbleached Cake Flour Blend, as called for in the recipe, but you could make your own by mixing 2 T of cornstarch with 1 cup of all purpose flour. I like the fact that King Arthur Flour's cake flour is unbleached and chemical free. 

Make the pastry cream a day in advance. If you are pressed for time, you can substitute instant vanilla pudding. It's not quite as flavorful, but I'd keep a small box on hand in case you have a "pastry cream malfunction."

Recipes and Links:

You can find the recipe and directions for the cake and the ganache here. You can find the recipe for pastry cream here

Boston cream pie

If you are interested in participating in the Avid Baker's Challenge, check out this page for more information. 

Avid Baker's Challenge

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Feb 2, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

How beautiful is the concept of shepherd's pie? Meat, gravy, and some vegetables topped with mashed potatoes. Pretty amazing, right? I've been thinking about making shepherd's pie for quite awhile, and then my November, 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived in my mailbox. Shepherd's pie. Right there. Had to try it.

 Cook's Illustrated is pretty amazing in how they vet recipes. So detailed. Pretty foolproof. Seriously consider subscribing. I get the magazine and I subscribe online. AND I have many of their cookbooks. I'm out of control.

This shepherd's pie is made in a 10 inch oven and broiler safe skillet. Do not use a nonstick pan. You will also need a medium saucepan to make the potatoes.

Shepherd's Pie


1 1/2 pounds of 93% lean ground beef
2 T plus 2 tsp water
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch square pieces
4 T melted unsalted butter
1/2 C milk
1 egg yolk
8 thinly sliced scallions
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 ounces chopped white mushrooms
1 T tomato paste
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T ruby port wine
2 T all purpose flour
1 1/4 C beef broth
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cornstarch

Shepherd's Pie


  • Toss the ground beef with 2 T of the water, 1 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and the baking soda in a bowl. Let it all sit for 20 minutes.
  • In a saucepan, add the potatoes, cover with water, add 1 T of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and for 8 to 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender. 
  • Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan.
  • Cook over low heat until the moisture has evaporated, approximately one minute. 
  • Remove the pan from the heat, mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Stir in the butter. 
  • Whisk the milk and egg yolk together and add the mixture to the potatoes. Add the scallions and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover until you are ready to top the dish.
  • Heat the oil in a oven/broiler safe 10-inch skillet until fully heated. 
  • Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The vegetables should begin to soften, and there should be brown bits on the bottom of the pan. 
  • Add the tomato paste and the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. The bottom of the pan should be dark brown. 
  • Add the port and continue to cook, scraping up the dark brown bits from the pan. Continue to cook for about a minute, until the wine has evaporated. 
  • Add the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring.
  • Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and the carrots. 
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. 
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beef in 2 inch chunks and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, breaking up the meat chunks halfway through. 
  • Mix the cornstarch and 2 tsp water in a small bowl and add it to the mixture and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. 
  • Remove the thyme and the bay leaf and add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Place an oven rack 5 inches from the broiler and heat the oven on broil. (See note below)
  • Place the mashed potatoes in a large plastic bag and cut one corner to create a one inch hole. 
  • Pipe the potatoes on top of the filling to completely cover the mixture. Smooth out the potatoes with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Make ridges on the surface with a fork. 
  • Put the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet and broil for about 15 minutes. The potatoes should develop a golden crust and the filling should be bubbling. (Note: as you can see, my potatoes are more than golden. If you don't want them this dark, move the oven rack to a lower position)
  • Allow to cool and set for about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Garnish with more scallions or parsley.
Shepherd's Pie