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Apr 23, 2014

Vanilla Gelato

Vanilla gelato

This vanilla gelato is lower in fat than most ice cream because it does not contain cream. It also contains more sugar than American ice cream. Because it is churned with less air, the sugar acts as a sort of "anti-freeze" to keep the gelato from getting rock hard.

Most home ice cream makers do not add a lot of air to homemade ice creams, so they are perfect for making gelato. This vanilla gelato is so easy to scoop and does not get as rock hard as most homemade ice cream. This did not last very long in our house, mostly because of me. I have been known to justify having a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. If you need ideas for rationalizing ice cream for breakfast, let me know. I've got an entire list.

Vanilla gelato

About two months after I first started this blog, I came across a post from Lora of the wonderful blog, Cake Duchess. She was just starting a baking group #TwelveLoaves, which was all about flexing new baking muscles and making bread at home. I started following her blog (follow it, you won't regret it, she has so many authentic Italian recipes and her breads are inspired). I also started participating in #TwelveLoaves and got to know Lora as a friend.

When Lora lost her dad, and after taking some time off from writing, she wrote this moving story. As a result of this story, as well as many of her food blogging friends reaching out to her, she created this #food memory series.

I am honored to be the next contributor to the series. I've written a post about my dad and his love of ice cream, especially gelato.

For the recipe for this vanilla gelato, to hear a little bit about my dad, and to see photos of my handsome young father, please visit Cake Duchess. I hope you do. This has been a labor of love.
Apr 22, 2014

Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

Karen's Kitchen Stories: Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

Polvorones are a Mexican sugar or shortbread cookie. According to the collective brains of Wikipedia, they are derived from a Spanish cookie. In the United States, they are often referred to as Mexican wedding cookies.
Apr 12, 2014

Black Pepper Taralli

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Taralli are a southern Italian snack that is kind of a cross between a looped breadstick and a pretzel. They look like tiny bagels, but they are super crunchy like grissini. These crackers are about 2 inches in diameter (smaller than they look in the photos). I've also seen them referred to as Italian wine pretzels.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Taralli? How did I discover taralli? you ask! Well.... there was a cookbook sitting on my nightstand called Crackers & Dips: More than 50 Handmade Snacks.

I definitely have a bit of a cookbook problem. A book solely devoted to crackers and dips? How did this get in my house? Typically the culprit is some gorgeous article in Fine Cooking or Bon Appetit featuring a stack of beautiful cookbook spines. Amazon Prime strikes again.

Time to try one of the recipes.

At least I don't collect cars, right? Or shoes. Or exotic animals. I swear, you won't see me on Hoarders weaving my way through narrow aisles of cookbooks.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Tartalli come in both savory or sweet flavors. They are often served with wine, and are crispy enough to be served with cheesy dips. I made these with very coarsely ground tellicherry black peppercorns. I loved them both plain and with a gooey dip of Harvarti cheese with pepperoni.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

You can substitute any number of savory flavors for the black pepper. I really like the spiciness of the bits of tellicherry.

Black Pepper Taralli


2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 C warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 C white wine
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 C/255 g unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 C/290 g semolina flour (not extra fancy durum)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground (on course) black pepper
1 egg + 1 T water, beaten


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the ingredients in the order that they are listed, except the beaten egg.
  2. Stir with a large spoon or dough whisk until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients.
  3. Knead on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The dough can also be kneaded by hand for about 6 minutes. 
  4. Allow the dough to rise, covered in an oiled bowl, until doubled. About 90 to 120 minutes. 
  5. Divide the dough in half, covering one half with plastic wrap while you work with the other half. 
  6. Divide the other half into 28 equal pieces and roll them into 6 inch long ropes. Coil the ropes into a circle and press the ends together. Place them one inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. 
  7. Cover the first sheet with plastic wrap, while preparing the second baking sheet. 
  8. Brush the taralli lightly with the egg wash. 
  9. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. 
  10. Cool on a wire rack, and then store in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks. 
Sharing with Yeastspotting

Apr 8, 2014

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

These Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers are ridiculous. Beyond amazing. Seriously delicious. Happy dance good.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

I am not an expert in grilling and neither is Mr. K. We've always had a charcoal grill, and have recently learned about using a chimney starter. About a year ago, we purchased a gas grill. We are still trying to figure out the manual (give me bread formulas or even Excel pivot tables - just don't ask me to figure out how to use this damn grill). Being the holder of all earthly knowledge is a lot of work.

These pork belly skewers are soooo good. The ingredients in the marinade make the dish. I still can't believe I devoured a skewer full of pork belly the minute it came off of the grill.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

I used the gas grill to make these skewers. While the original recipe calls for about four minutes to make these skewers, it took me about twice that amount of cooking time suggested in the recipe. With grilling, there are a lot of variables, including the weather, so keep a close eye on the meat and go with your instincts. Next time I might double up on the scallions too. 

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour introducing Grilled to Perfection by two champion pit masters Andy Husbands and Chris Hart. I chose to make these pork belly skewers as part of this tour. Zero regrets here!

This book is loaded with new and wonderful barbecue recipes. There are recipes for hot direct grilling, roasting on the grill, and low and slow grilling. The recipes are adapted for both charcoal and gas. There are lots sauce recipes as well as tons of grilling tips. The grilled corn with miso butter and the lemon and fresh herb grill-roasted leg of lamb recipes are next on my list.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

Posted with permission from Page Street Publishing

We found that grilling these over a low grill helps build a wonderful sticky-crunchy texture. Make sure to flip the skewers over every 30-45 seconds. Soaking the skewers in water helps keep them from burning.

1 cup/240 mL water
1/2 cup/90 g brown sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 pieces star anise
1 two-inch/5 cm cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons/10 mL coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons/10mL red pepper flakes
1/4 cup/60mL soy sauce
2 tablespoons/30 mL fish sauce
2 tablespoons/30 mL white vinegar
1 pound/450g pork belly, skin removed, cut into 1"/2.5 cm-square slices, each 1/4"/6 mm thick
10 scallions, thick white part cut into 1"/2.5cm-pieces

Makes 10 skewers, 4 - 6 appetizer servings

Equipment: Ten 8"/20 cm wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

Cooking Instructions
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring to boil the water, brown sugar, lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon stick, coriander and red pepper flakes. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, about 2 hours. Add the soy and fish sauces and vinegar. 

Place the pork belly chunks in the marinade for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Thread the pork belly and scallion alternately, starting with pork belly (scallion should be perpendicular to the skewers). Each skewer should have 3 pieces of pork and 2 scallions.

Build a low direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney one-third full with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust the temperature on both sides to low.

When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 8-10 seconds, clean the grill grate. Place the skewers directly over the fire, with the exposed wooden ends pointing the edge of the grill, and grill for 30-45 seconds, until the meat starts to brown. Flip skewers over and repeat. Continue this process for about 4 minutes, until the meat is dark brown, almost black in some areas.

Serve hot, and make sure you get one for yourself. These will not last long.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Apr 5, 2014

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This is Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread.

Spelt you ask? What is that? It is an ancient grain now grown mostly in Europe. You can purchase it already ground or in whole berries to grind your own spelt flour. To read more about spelt, check out this post.

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This bread is pretty easy to make and does not require a mixer. Even though it is a very wet dough, it is fairly easy to handle, probably due to the whole wheat and whole spelt. It is delicious with butter, toasted, and grilled (as in grilled cheese sandwich, tuna melt, etc.). It's very tasty thinly sliced and served with spreads, cheeses, and meats too.

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

You will need a sourdough starter at 100% hydration to leaven this bread. If you don't have one, you can start one. The King Arthur Flour site has an easy recipe for starting your own.

You will also need a kitchen scale and a very large bowl or dough rising bucket. I baked these in cast iron Dutch ovens. If you don't have one, you can rig up a pizza stone and an upside down metal bowl, as shown in this post.

This is the March Bread of the Month (The BOM) for our Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers baking group. The recipe was contributed by Nancy, who takes some of the best bread photographs I have ever seen. She modified a recipe from the amazing book, Tartine.

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe

Sourdough Starter/Levain

Mix 50g of any starter with 200g water, 100g bread flour, and 100g of whole wheat flour. Let stand at room temperature, covered, overnight until bubbly and active.

To Make the Bread


300 g spelt flour
600 g bread flour
100 g whole wheat flour
70 g wheat germ
150 g of the sourdough starter/levain
800 g warm (80 degrees F) water
25 g sea salt
50 g warm water


In a large bowl or dough rising bucket, whisk together the spelt, bread, and whole wheat flours, and the wheat germ.

In another bowl, mix the 150 g of starter with the 800 g of water. Pour the levain/water mixture over the flour and mix by hand. It should look like this:

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Cover and let sit (autolyse) for 30 minutes.

Add the salt, the 50 g of warm water, and mix by hand to fully incorporate the salt. Cover the container for bulk fermentation.

You will need to do 5 stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first 2 1/2 hours. Place your hand or a dough scraper under the dough, pull it up, and fold it over the top of the dough. Do this from all four "sides." Flip the ball over, and re-cover the container. Each time you do a stretch and fold, you will see the dough begin to smooth out. 

Here it is after the second stretch and fold:

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

And after the final one:

Spelt and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

After the final stretch and fold, cover the dough and allow it to rise 60 to 90 minutes longer. It will not have necessarily doubled in size, but it will be soft and airy. Mine was about 1 1/2 times its original size. 

On an unfloured surface, divide the dough in half and gently shape the dough into rounds. Be careful not to degas the dough. Cover the rounds with oiled plastic wrap and let them rest for 30 minutes. 

Shape the dough into boules. This video provides a great demonstration of the method (go to minute 3:09). 

Place the boules, seam side up, into floured baskets. I coated one of my loaves in seeds before placing it in the basket. Cover the baskets in oiled plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. 

The next morning, place two Dutch ovens in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F (if you have just one Dutch oven, leave the other loaf in the refrigerator until after you've baked the first loaf and have reheated the pan). 

Carefully transfer the dough to the Dutch oven, seam side down. I turn the dough out onto a piece of good parchment paper, and then use that as a sling to lift the dough into the pan. The parchment seems to hold up just fine (no fires so far). 

Slash the top of the dough, cover the pot, and place it back in the oven. At the 20 minute mark, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. After another 10 minutes, remove the tops of the pans, and continue to bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the bread reaches 210 degrees F and is a deep golden brown. 

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Sharing with Yeastspotting (an amazing collection of bread posts)
Apr 2, 2014

Five Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps | Wok Wednesdays

Five Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This Five Spice Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas has 13 ingredients. Guess what? I had all of them in my pantry and refrigerator except the chicken, the peas, and the fresh ginger. Ingredient hoarding? Justified!

Five Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Actually, I can't gloat too much, as the most difficult to find ingredient is the dark soy sauce. If you can't find the dark soy sauce, you can use regular soy sauce, but your chicken will not have this beautiful mahogany color.

Five Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This was the easiest to prepare Wok Wednesdays dish for me so far. Or maybe I'm just getting better at it. All I know is, my kitchen looked fairly clean and organized when I was done.

It may also have something to do with the fact that I actually read the entire recipe through in advance and was able to cut down on the number of dishes, bowls, measuring cups, and measuring spoons used to prepare this dish.

The chicken is briefly marinated in ginger, dark soy, honey, cornstarch, Shao Hsing rice wine (or dry sherry), five spice, and sesame oil. I just set the sliced chicken in a large bowl, added the ingredients, and stirred. In a second bowl, I mixed some chicken broth, ketchup (yep!) and more dark soy sauce. The only thing that needed it's own little container was the salt, which I left in the measuring spoon. I parked the peas on a dish towel, which made it easy to transport them to the wok when it was their time.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am pretty proud of the fact that my kitchen didn't look like a cyclone hit it when I was finished.

Verdict? Another simply amazing stir-fry from Grace Young's Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge. The chicken is simply succulent and flavorful. Watching the peas turn bright green as you stir fry them in the wok is an amazing thing. This dish is perfect with rice.

I am participating in Wok Wednesdays, and am pretty much in love with this book. After making quite a few of the recipes, I am a total devotee.

You don't have to be a blogger to participate. Just join the Facebook page! It's hosted by Matthew and visited often by the author herself! It's a very supportive group that has literally helped me with finding specialized ingredients while I was standing in the middle of the Asian supermarket.

I encourage you to get the book and start wokking.

An adapted version of recipe can also be found here.
Apr 1, 2014

Pizza di Pasqua - Easter Pizza

Pizza di Pasqua - Karen's Kitchen Stories

This Pizza di Pasqua is traditionally served only on Easter morning in areas of central Italy (at least according to the interwebs). It is incredibly ethereal and light. In fact, as I researched this bread, I was continuously reminded that "this bread is very delicate." (With all of those warnings, I was a little nervous after my "collapsed savarin incident" that I'm trying to forget).