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Apple Fritters

I have few days off to do absolutely nothing with Certain Someone home. Today in our shopping we bought a ham among other things. With ham I thought of apples. I love my fruits and veggies , unlike my big baby. With it being cold and homey, a craving entered my head. Apple fritters. These are really easy to make , simple, satisfying, and fattening. I couldn't stop at one. Even Certain Someone came up to kitchen counter to have one after I offered some to my neighbor. He said they taste like apple pancakes, and they do. You can dice the apples or batter up apple rings. The choice is yours. Here's the recipe I used.

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Getting Figgy With It

This is something that we have all had variations of. Essentially a wheel of Brie baked en croute. The most popular being with apricot preserves. I first had this starter wrapped in phyllo.I have even seen some take shortcuts and use refrigerated crescent dough. I decided to make my own pie crust and top off the Brie with some lovely fig preserves . Certain Someone and I devoured this prior to our dinner which was nicely roasting.He commented he didn't need a entree .

Brie with Fig Preserves Wrapped in Pastry

Pie Crust

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup Manteca (lard , don't frown it makes all the difference. Usually found in Baking aisles or Latin food sections.)well chilled.

2 tablespoons of butter

4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons water. Ice cold.

Also need 1 egg and heavy cream for egg wash.
1 wheel of Brie
Fig Preserves

Mix flour and salt in bowl.Cut in Manteca and butter into flour mixture until it resembles crumbs. Gradually add water/ vinegar mix . Mix until dough holds together. Divide into 2 balls and chill. Other ball can be frozen for later use depending on size of Brie.

Roll out between sheets of wax paper. Place Brie on top of crust. Top with Fig preserves liberally. Wrap crust up and around the cheese. Brush with egg wash.Bake at 350 degrees for approx 20-30 min or until crust is golden. You want the brie to be melted . Serve with crackers.

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Happy Holidays

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Daring Bakers December Challenge: Hazelnut Genoise filled with Chocolate cream and Iced with Coffee/Hazelnut/Chocolate Buttercream...Yule Log

I must say Lisa and Ivonne chose one of the most time consuming challenges during the busiest time of the year. But those that know me well know I thrive under pressure. With a little Pre planning and a day off work at my disposal I jumped on in. Coincidentally this challenges deadline coincided with my work places holiday baking competition. The grand prize were $300 ,$200,$100 and my competitive spirit was kicking in.I didn't win. It was kind of a letdown after all that work. I got beaten out by a Navy Bean cheesecake, a pound cake,and a apple pie. I think the marzipan rabbit freaked them out.The reaction I got from my aunts and her friends was if the bunny were something from Fatal Attraction!If you have read my blog before, you know I'm into cake decorating. A Buche de Noel /Yule Log not only presents opportunities to master the daunting genoise (of which I've never been successful), classic meringue based butter creams, rolling techniques,sugar craft, etc. I wanted my Buche to 'pop'. I love hazelnuts and decided to incorporate toasted ground hazelnuts into my genoise .This would complement my butter cream which I added hazelnut syrup.Thank goodness for my new Kitchen Aid. It really is worth its weight in gold.The genoise made me the most nervous. I slightly overcooked it even at 10 minutes. I think those hazelnuts caused this. But the smell was heavenly!. When rolling it, after a liberal brush of Cointreau mixed in Simple Syrup, and filling it with the chocolate pastry cream, it started to crack. But it still rolled and would be covered with icing. The end scraps I cut away tasted so good. But genoise is a very dry cake that needs careful attention.Letting my log rest a while I went to town with the marzipan. Not only did I make the requisite mushrooms, but decided to make a rabbit with the leftover marzipan. Who knew homemade marzipan was so easy and fun!I painted the rabbit with color gels diluted with vodka. Seems like my dormant art schooling was waking up. I must say this was the most fun and rewarding challenge I have done so far( only my thrird).I finally got to taste my creation, as my colleaugues were to scared to touch it. Sweet and chocaolately. The Hazelnut complimented all the flavors. What amazed me that real buttery taste from the buttercream that comes though after sitting out for a bit. This challenge was a excellent way to get into the festive Holiday Spirit. Check out the other Daring Bakers.

To all my Daring Bakers, I wish you peace, love,health, and prosperity in the coming year.

The December 2007 DB Challenge: Yule Log

Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12

Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated.
What Is Required•
A genoise cake (using the recipe below)
• A coffee buttercream frosting (using the recipe below)(Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don't want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!)
• Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms (using the recipes below)
What You are Free to Do- Your genoise must be made using the recipe provided; however, it can be flavoured however you wish. Make it chocolate, add nuts, douse it in liquor, throw in some citrus or just leave it plain. It’s entirely up to you how you flavour it. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)- While the outside of your Yule Log must be frosted with the coffee buttercream using the recipe provided here, you are free to fill the recipe however you choose. Fill it with fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding, whipped cream, or another frosting of your choice. You have complete freedom when it comes to the FILLING. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)- At the very least, besides the coffee buttercream, you must decorate your log with mushrooms. We have provided a recipe for meringue mushrooms and marzipan mushrooms. You can choose one or the other or you can try both. But you must try at least one type of mushroom.- You have complete freedom, besides the mushrooms, to decorate your logs however you wish.- You have complete freedom to make your logs in whatever shape you like (mini logs, one huge log, an upright log, etc.)Note: If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with something other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.
Plain Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again.
*I added toasted ground hazelnuts about 1/3 cup
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
*I added hazelnut syrup and melted chocolate
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Filling and frosting the log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved butter cream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the butter cream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
Meringue Mushrooms:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.
Marzipan Mushrooms:
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. 2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls(caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
In addition I used some tips and recipe for the chocolate pastry cream from this link.

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Playing with the Classics: French Onion Soup Gratinee

I'm alone again as Certain Someone has flown off to yet another business trip. In thinking about dinner for one , with some leftovers I was stumped. I ran across some inexpensive beef shanks and immediately thought of soup. A french onion soup to be exact. I remember my first as a young high school student in Washington DC. On a field trip, I had the most incredible soup chock full of onions , beef and topped with gooey Gruyere. Heaven! I have rarely come across a onion soup I didn't like, but none compare like your first. And I liked the heartiness of the beef floating in it.

So I decided to roast the shanks and onions until caramelized and brown, deglaze with red wine and chicken stock,add spices , herbs and some beef soup base, water and slowly cook until the meat was tender and started to fall of the shanks. If you don't want to go through all of that but want the gist of a perfect example try this recipe. Either way its all good. I couldn't find Gruyere so I settled on a tangy Fontinilla cheese( Italian, I know) and it did just the trick.Hopefully there will be some leftover soup in the freezer when Certain Someone comes back home.

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A Christmas Carol Plum Pudding/ Retro Recipe Challenge

I wish I had all my story books as a child. Some of them where filled with fantastic illustration of fanciful pastries that I would just stare at. When I saw this months Retro Recipe Challenge asking us to seek inspiration from Storybook food,a Plum Pudding from Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" came to mind. As I child just saying plum pudding made me crave for a dessert I had imagined as a ignorant youth resembling a purple colored jello mold. Au Contraire. As a adult I ordered one from one of those mail order catalogues and wasn't that impressed. Oh ,the let down to discover there were no plums at all!When researching the recipes for this , I learnt so much. Traditionally one makes the pudding a year in advance during the advent season for the Christmas of the next year. The puddings slowly age and mature. The older the pudding the better. Challenge #1 came form finding a proper pudding mold. Sur Le Table to the rescue. Although I wish I had gotten a larger mold. Fortunately my years of antique finds yielded some mini molds that would be suitable for miniature puddings alongside the larger one. Challenge # 2 was in finding candied citron, etc. Surprisingly hard to find early November. Hyde Park Co Op to the rescue. They seem to carry them all year round. Seems the art of making fruitcakes and puddings is a lost one. I also gathered up some figs, raisins,and currants and soaked them in rum.As this recipe was getting costly in time and money, I chose to go with the rum as I have tons of it. Certain Someone would kill me if I got into his good stuff. I was starting to see why this dessert was considered a sign of prosperity. Here is a excellent historical link with some recipes.
"Hallo! A great deal of steam! the pudding was out of the copper [boiler]. A smell like washing –day! That was the cloth [the pudding bag]. A smell like an eating house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding. like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."
"Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage..."
Challenge #3 was finding suet, which all the recipes I referenced called for. Not as readily available here as it is the UK. The lovely and flirtatious butcher over at Hyde Park Co Op managed to cut me up some . It had flecks of meat attached. But it was better than nothing. I endured the embarrassment of a a big executive over at my place of work behind me in line as they rang up my 'FAT' . The Exec looked at me odd "as if they must not be paying me much if I'm buying fat( actually it was free)and hadn't we evolved from our slave ancestors by eating such unhealthy things". I suppose he wondered where my greens were too. He commented that I was really the gourmet ,as I explained the fat. Luckily Certain Someones colleague will bring me back some hydrogenated suet when she goes back for Christmas.

To make this pudding I followed several recipes.This link contains several antique ones that I used as my primary guide.I also used the famous James Beards published in House and Garden 1963. My obstacles where in cutting up the suet so fine. I froze it and chopped it up. I than ran it through a food processor with the wet ingredients . I had soaked my fruit in both rum and Cointreau for over 4 days, as time did not let me start this recipe as I intended . It does require 6 hours of steaming. No shortcuts. Julia Child's really made it simple for me . I made this the night before Thanksgiving as the challenge is due by Dec 14. There are so many variations. My Aussie friend Gabs fondly reminisced about the Clootie Puddings she had in Scotland. The name doesn't do much for me , but it seems to be a favorite. So if you have the time, means, and patience I think everyone should try this. Up to the sentence I haven't tried it it as its slowly aging in my fridge with periodic rum baths. Prior to serving it I must steam it again for 2 hours and torch it with more booze. No wonder this is a favorite!

Post Script
December 11
I steamed some of the mini puddings to photograph and taste for this post. I decided on the Zabaione Sauce from the Julia Child recipe. I was a little disappointed my puddings didn't come out in the rich and dark color one associates with plum pudding. But overall the taste was good and rich. No wonder its a opulent Christmas favorite. And what a fitting treat for the poor ,yet rich Cratchitt family.

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Check This Out

I'm lazy and busy this week. But I want to direct you to a beautiful and plentiful roundup of the the food blogging event Spoonful Of Christmas. What a inspiring event and hats of to Zlamushska in Sweden for conceiving it.

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Coco's Rum Raisin Egg Nog Ice Cream

I had a surplus of raisins that had been soaking in rum for a holiday project challenge I'm working on. I also have a ice cream maker that collects dust. So what to do ? Make Rum Raisin ice cream of course. My favorite holiday flavors are that of rum soaked raisins and egg nog. I followed Cuisinart recipe book for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream but added eggnog flavoring( you could substitute egg nog for the heavy cream I suppose) those drunken raisins. Maybe I added to much raisins, as it didn't freeze at first. To much alcohol. But I kept the slushy mixture in the freezer and about a day or two later we had a soft but workable ice cream. It didn't matter as Certain Someone proposed we make smoothies with it at first before the freeze took over. Adult smoothies of course which we thoroughly enjoyed by the fire. The pureed raisin bits didn't look nice in the glass though when we were finished, but it was good and rich.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream( adapted from Cuisinart Recipe book for Ice Cream,Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet Maker) morphed into Coco's Rum Raisin Ice Cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cup heavy cream( * or substitute egg nog)
1 whole vanilla bean
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon eggnog flavor if available
1- 1 1/2 cups Rum soaked golden raisins and regular raisins ( mine had been soaking for several days).

Combine the milk and cream( eggnog) in sauce pan. Scrape seeds out of vanilla bean and add with pod to the milk/ cream mixture. Bring mixture to a slow boil over medium heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 30 min. Stirring occasionally.
Combine eggs , yolks, and sugar in a bowl. use a hand mixer and blend until its thick smooth, and pale yellow in color for 2 minutes. Should resemble mayonnaise.
Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk cream mixture. Discard the pod. Measure out 1 cup of the hot liquid. With the mixture on low speed add slowly to the egg mixture to temper. When thoroughly combined pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk mixture . Stir to combine. Cook stirring constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.. Transfer to a bowl, stir in vanilla and egg nog flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill completely.
Pour the chilled custard in your ice cream makers freezer bowl. Add the drained raisins.Turn machine on and mix for 25-30 min. the ice cream will be soft. Put in airtight container and allow to freeze in the freezer until desired consistency. With the amount of alcohol mine took up to 2 days.

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Final Class Project For Wilton 3

Well I did it. Here is my Final Class Project for Wilton 3. My roses looked like crap, but some silver luster saved them. I didn't make varying sizes as well. Considering I rushed this ( baking the cakes the night before, rolling out fondant, making the roses and butter cream to ice the cakes first) in a matter of the night before and a few hours Sunday, I'm pleased. Debating on if I should continue the Fondant and Gum paste final series or take a month off and continue later. I'll be like Scarlett O'Hara and figure it out tomorrow.

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Tender Potato Bread and its many Adaptations( Chestnut, Carmalized Onions,and Sage Focaccia,Pull Apart Seasoned Loaves, and Kaiser Rolls

Kaiser Rolls

Chestnut,Caramelized Onion, and Sage Focaccia

Seasoned Pull Apart Loaves

Tanna's challenge for Daring Bakers in November was one I was anxious to make. My mother and I loved Potato bread and rolls , and yet in all of our baking adventures had never attempted it. I don't consider myself a beginner bread maker, nor a expert. I've made bread since I was a child alongside my mother, yet have never been satisfied so much with the flavors.She loved to make rolls and the scent of baked bread was a staple in the house. I found this bread which I anxiously made right after the challenge was released ,finally met all I was looking to achieve in bread making.The flavor had that right amount of salt I guess. Normally my breads taste a little floury, sugary or off ( cant describe)and need jam or butter to bring them out. This bread can stand alone or with so many variations of toppings. Tanna gave us the basic recipe from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition from Around the World. But most importantly she gave us free rein in regards to shaping and savory toppings or fillings. I came up with so many ideas in my head and finally settled on a Chestnut,Caramelized Onion, Cracked Wheat, and Sage topped Focaccia , Pull Apart Seasoned Mini Loaf , and Kaiser Rolls. I made these over two weekends.Out of the all, of which I was pleased, I preferred the subtle savory Chestnut Focaccia I can so envision this for holiday meals( I made this pre Thanksgiving). The plain rolls were nice as well and the true flavor of the bread shined through. I was a little to heavy with the salt in the coating for the pull apart bread, but nevertheless it was very edible alongside a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.This was all day project in which I sustained myself munching the rewards afterwards. Certain Someone has been away in Europe and I didn't have his expert review. I plan on giving my Aunt half of the goodies . The smells of bread baking fresh are intoxicating. Alongside the aromas of my cooked topping.I couldn't wait to tear into the finished product but had to wait the requisite 10 min for the focaccia and30 min for the loaves. I found the dough sticky but manageable to work with. Especially after the first rising. I love the flecks of wheat as I had never used Whole Wheat Flour before.All in all the recipe was simple and clear enough. The following is the official recipe with my toppings and modifications in blue. This recipe is a keeper. A side note : I incorporated the frozen leftovers of Focaccia and the pull aparts for my Thanksgiving stuffing. Delicious. Also Certain Someone who is not much of a sweets person loved the rolls.So I will be baking this again and again.Those Germans can be fussy about their breads.

Tender Potato Bread Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid(also wrote Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf and something more; one 10X15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia, 12 soft dinner rolls, or a small pan loaf Potatoes and potato water give this bread wonderful flavor and texture. The dough is very soft and moist and might feel a little scary if you’ve never handled soft dough before. But don’t worry: Leaving it on parchment or wax paper to proof and to bake makes it easy to handle.Once baked, the crumb is tender and airy, with ting soft pieces of potato in it and a fine flecking of whole wheat. The loaves have a fabulous crisp texture on the outside and a slightly flat-topped shape. They make great toast and tender yet strong sliced bread for sandwiches. The dinner rolls are soft and inviting, and the focaccia is memorable.I have chosen this recipe because it gives directions for different ways of shaping the dough and provides oven times and temperatures for those variations.
4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold For the beginner I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces.
4 cups water (See Note)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast ( I SAF Perfect Rise Yeast but did not follow their conversions 1tsp=3/4 SAF)
6½ cups to 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur Brands)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur Brands)

Conversion Chart for yeast:
Fresh yeast 1 oz/ 1 tablespoon = active dry yeast 0.4 oz/ 1.25 teaspoon = 0.33 oz / 1 teaspoon
reference: Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart
Cooking conversion link here.
4 cups water = 950 ml to cook potatoes in
from that 4 cups potato water you will need to reserve
3 cups potato water = 750 ml for mixing into the dough
6 1/2 cups to 8 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour = 1 kg to 1350 g
1 cup whole wheat flour = 130 g

Thank you to Linda of Make Life Sweeter for providing these measurements!A very graphic picture of why I love metric now! I didn't really do the math but I don't think any 2 cups weighted the same thing.The other thing to take note of is: whole wheat is heavier than AP.King Arthur Artisan Organic All-Purpose Flour is fairly new in the markets in the US now and is advertised to be best for making European-style hearth breads with a protein level of 11.3%

Topping For Loaves and Rolls: melted butter (optional)

For Foccacia: olive oil, coarse salt, and rosemary leaves (optional; also see variatio Chestnut, Caramelized Onion, Cracked Wheat, and Sage

3 tbs butter

pre soaked Bulger wheat

1 onion sliced thin

2 cloves chopped fresh garlic

1 can water packed or roasted

fresh sage

ground sage( for cooking and topping)


brandy( about 1/4 cup)


Herbs de Provence

Sea Salt for sprinkle

Olive Oil or any type of nut flavored oil like Walnut

Brown onions in butter until translucent. Add chestnuts,spices,and sage(everything except pre soaked bulger wheat and sea salt for sprinkle).Stir occasionally gently as to not mash up chestnuts to much.Cook on a lower heat for 10 min. Add half of brandy mixture and continue to cook until it evaporates. Add the other half. Cook until a caramelized brown color appears and mixture starts to stick to pan. Set aside.
Pull Apart Seasoned Loaf

onion powder

garlic powder
caraway seed

sea salt

dash of Paprika

Herbs de Provence

Grated Parmesan

Melted Butter and olive oil mixture.

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. I have a food mill I will run my potatoes through to mash them.Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in – directions will be for by hand. Let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Allowed to add yeast one of two ways:Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes.
Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix. Allow to rest several minutes.
OR Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter(I creamed these two together as you would in a cake with sugar and butter); mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.It is at this point you are requested to Unleash the Daring Baker within.
The following is as the recipe is written. You are now free to follow as written or push it to a new level.
Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other).
Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.To shape the large loaf: Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan.Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.
To make a small loaf with the remainder:Butter an 8 x 4 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.
I rubbed my hands with melted butter and made tiny balls which I dipped in the butter and coated in the seasoning mix. I dropped them on top of each other in mini loaf pans. I skipped the second kneading and worked it while it was soft from the first rising. I covered and allowed it to double in size. Go easy with the salt in the coating and be sue to brush with remainder melted butter mix.I place my mini pans on a baking stone and baked according to instructions.
To make rolls:Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.
To make focaccia:Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.
After the first rising I kneaded the focaccia several minutes more to shape into a rectangle. I placed it on the parchment and baking sheet. I drizzled the dough with olive oil and spread the onion chestnut mixture. I added fresh sage leaves, the Bulger cracked wheat,and some sea salt. I too my buttered fingered and dimpled the dough with all the savory topping ,being sure to coat the dry sage leaves. I brushed the edges with butter and covered to rise.
Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a baking/sheet (no edge – you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C. Bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.If making focaccia just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). For my Kaiser Rolls , I rolled out the dough and tied them into knots. I brushed with butter first. The final few minutes I brushed with a egg wash for shine.Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes.Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes.Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.Let breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.
Anchovy-Onion Focaccia Instead of oil, salt and rosemary, the focaccia can be topped with onions slow-cooked in olive oil or bacon fat, a scattering of chopped anchovy fillets, and flat-leafed parsley leaves.Alternate fillings, seasons, shapes are up to you.You must follow the recipe as written until you get to shaping the bread.If you are new to bread and already your whisks are shaking (or is that your boots), you may bake the bread (or one of it’s variations) just as written.
Allowed Modifications for Unleashing Your Daring Baker:
This bread must be savory and not sweet.Please Knead by hand.No biga, sponge or starter.You may shape this dough anyway you would like.You may make this as a loaf, as rolls, as focaccia. You can braid it, twist it whatever.You may season this bread in any way you see fit: maybe it becomes your turkey stuffing. Maybe you season some sandwich bread for great turkey sandwiches.You can fill it if you think that will work for you. Think calzone or anything with a savory filling.Again however it must be savory and not sweet.Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.

So you see the possibilities are endless! But this bread could stand alone and be equally delicious.

Be sure to check out the other great adaptations from the Daring Bakers. Thanks Tanna for pushing us all out of our comfort zones and stretching our abilities as bakers!

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Chicago's Christkindlmarket

It's that time of year again which I love. Certain Someone and I caught up with our old friend the Rock at the cities Christkindle Market. I have lived in Chicago for a decade and only upon partnering up with my German Teddy Bear, have I really discovered this gem. The market is on Daley Plaza and is open from Thanksgiving Day until Christmas Eve. The model is based on the actual Christmas Markets through out Germany. The market attracts local,German, Austrian, and Polish Vendors. You can buy anything from bratwurst to Cuckoo Clocks. I love the scent of the sweet spiced almonds that permeate the air. The boys just go for drinking hot cups of Gluwein and chasing it with German beers. The hot wine comes in cute yearly addition cups shaped like boots which you purchase and get refills. We have a whole collection. from the years. I always forget mine and have to buy another. So while they drank , I browsed the the stalls. I consumed 2 cups of potent Gluwein, 1 cup of Kinder Gluhwein( I was feeling tipsy so switched to alcohol free version), a Lieberkasse Sandwich with Sauerkraut( so good, think fried pate meatloaf), and a half apricot almond strudel. You have to eat a lot so the wind doesn't blow you away here in the Windy City. You could have stuck a fork in me because I was done. Only a brisk 20 minute walk revived me afterwards. I anticipate a few more visits before Christmas. It's the perfect meet up spot amongst all the Holiday hustle and bustle. For a German it may not be truly authentic, but I think it comes mighty close .

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More To Be Thankful For...

Today a day after Thanksgiving( feeling fat yet content), I got a Fed Exed delivery from my friend. She's gone crazy with my Birthday last week and the gifts keep rolling in. I have pestered Certain Someone for a while for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. He doesn't get the hype. I told him its like your whole craving for GPS . Despite his lack of understanding he delivered for my birthday and I've been finding ways to use it. Well this afternoon the Fed Ex man drops off a big box outside my door. My dear friend and colleague Vicky ordered me the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Attachment pack! Now I'll be able to grind meat,shred veggies, and strain fruit and veggies! Did I mention she gave me a great new cookbook as well called Taste from the Neiman Marcus people? So I just have to keep the edible goodies coming to her and her family. My screams of delight woke Certain Someone from his mid afternoon nap after a turkey nosh. I mentioned Kitchen Aid was even featured as one of Oprah's Favorite Things. He rolled his eyes on that one. So now I'm ordering sausage casings and how to books online so I can make him a savory treat with the new toy. He'll see that was a good investment. But in the meantime I wish this bloated feeling will go away as I reach for another leftover nibble.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the second Thanksgiving since Ive been involved with Certain Someone, we are spending Thanksgiving with his colleagues. Normally I love to cook and prefer to spend it at home. Of course I have to go to the obligatory aunts house as well. I view Thanksgiving not as a mad race around to houses to gorge, but a time to kick back, and experiment. My mother instilled that adventuresome spirit in me in regards to food. We've had traditional turkey, Peking Duck, Goose, duck,Standing rib roasts, the works. I miss her dearly. But her spirit lives on in my cooking escapades. Certain Someone being new to this country likes a traditional turkey. We will go to his bosses( they compete to get him on holidays) tomorrow and I'm contributing red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Googling most red velvet recipes show them to be pretty consistent. A lot of people are adverse to the red food coloring., but it seems to be the essential ingredient to get the color.I used this basic recipe and added more cocoa as I wasn't sure that the amount was typo. I used 2 tablespoons rather than 1 teaspoon. I made my turkey decorations out of royal icing a week prior to top off the cupcakes.The combo is great. I hope my hosts like my festive turkey cup cakes.Now onto brainstorming on what to take to the others for Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Sugar High Fridays/Sweet Potato Churros

I'm new to this food blog thing. But one thing I know is that I love these food blog events. I've been very keen on participating in Sugar High Fridays. This months theme is hosted by Leslie of Definitely Not Martha. She wanted us to incorporate the Beta Carotene Harvest into a great dessert. Being as this is around the American Thanksgiving. I wanted to keep it simple , but good. I found a great variety of sweet potato's called Red Garnet and started to brainstorm. Pate Choux came to mind and I remembered that was essentially the dough used for the Spanish treat Churros. I researched some recipes on the Internet and came up with this . Its not your typical Pate Choux or Churro , but its definitely worth a try alongside some hot chocolate on a cold winter evening. Be careful , as you cant stop at one.

Sweet Potato Churros
Special Equipment: A `18 inch pastry bag , 2D star tip, or a churerra if you have one.
1 medium sweet potato
grated orange rind ( I have a premade orange pulp I use for baking)
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 butter
2 1/2 cups of flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
vegeatble oil for frying

Microwave sweet potato for approx 6-7 min or until soft to mash. Blend granulated sugar and cinnamon to set aside.
Bring water, brown sugar, salt,butter,and orange rind to a boil in a saucepan. Add mashed sweet potato and take a immersion blender to puree. Remove from heat. Add half of flour and mix with a wooden spoon . Mix eggs and vanilla together and add to the sweet potato/ flour mixture. Add more flour until mixture gets thicker and all is incorporated. A typical Pate Choux dough binds and moves away from the walls of the pan. This will not , due to the sweet potato addition. Take your pastry bag and add star tip. Fold over the bag and add the churro dough.
Heat oil until very hot in fry pan. Note that the churro will get soggy if oil is not hot enough. Test some batter first. Pipe the dough and clip off into the hot oil and fry until the churro floats and starts to gradually browns. It may take up to one minute. Continue until all is fried. Drain Churros on Paper towels and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.Serve immediately.

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Crock Pot Black Bean Chili

I haven't been up to much food related this week. Certain Someone is still away on business. He does plan to return this weekend for my Birthday. So I'm happy about that. And then he'll be grounded here for his third Thanksgiving.
This past Sunday I was seeking some comfort food after a self imposed hibernation. The social offers were plenty, but I'm at a point where I just want to chill in my nest. I have been reading some blogs here and there about warming soups and chili's. I decided to pull put the old slow cooker and make a chili with slightly nontraditional ingredients. My meat was a a lean pork tenderloin. I had run out of chili, and decided to use my Berbere spice mix I had made up a while ago. This mix has dried chilies,chili powders, cloves, ginger, and the works.I figured it should add a interesting twist. I threw the following in the pot and cooked for 10 hours. I think I ate about two small bowls that night. I figured black beans are rich in anti oxidants, so it cant be all that bad.

Crock Pot Black Bean Chili
pork loin
6 tablespoons Berbere spice mix
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 bag pre soaked black beans
bay leaves
1 onion chopped
cayenne pepper

Place all the ingredients in slow cooker . Add water to the halfway level. You may need to add more liquid as the dish cooks.Turn onto the 10 hour setting. At around the 8th hour the meat should start to able to fall apart as you pull it with a fork. Shred the meat and stir . Adjust seasonings to taste. Let continue to cook. Enjoy.

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Hay Hay It's Donna Day:Red Pepper, Spinach,Mushroom and Asparagus Terrine

I have always wanted to do a terrine.So when I saw the Hay Hay It's Donna Day , hosted by Tami, I decided to give it a shot. The only one I made in life was a precocious 12 year old attempting a country pate en croute from one of my Moms magazines. If I remember it tasted pretty good, but the effort wore me out. That was one of the beginning of my interests in food.I have had this bargain book I purchased from Borders for $2.98 called Terrines and Pates from the Healthy Home Cooking series from Time Life Books.The contributors seem to be all European or Australian and the weights and measures are adapted for both the Australian kitchen and American Kitchen. Needless to say I have never attempted anything from this fascinating bargain find. I just look at the lovely pictures.Terrines and Pates remind me of a bygone era in food. Surprisingly they don't seem to laden with heavy calories.The highest one was for a slice of Venison and Apricot Terrine at around 460 calories a slice. Terrines can be served as either first, main , or dessert courses. And they are really works of art. I choose a combination of two vegetable based terrines in the book. I had shopped with the main components in mind but no specific idea. When I got to work I found my recipes did not require gelatin, like most. I had all the ingredients for one recipe, but wanted to incorporate the Asparagus spears as well.So here's the gist of my terrine.

Red Pepper , Spinach, Mushroom, and Asparagus Terrine adapted from Terrines and Pates / Healthy Home Cooking series.

Approx total calories with Asparagus addition 143
Serves 6
Working Time 1 1/2 hours
Total Time: 7hours 30 min to overnight for chilling and setting

2lb seeded sweet red peppers (I used red,yellow, and orange)
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
4 egg whites
2 oz dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 lbs sliced mushrooms I used Herbs De Provence as a
1 tsp chopped fresh basil substitute for the herbs listed
1 tsp fresh marjoram or 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp fresh oregano or 1/4 dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz fresh spinach ( I used defrosted , drained frozen)
8 asparagus spears

Steam asparagus spears for approx 10 min.Set aside.

Dice one red pepper and set aside. Roughly chop the remaining peppers and cook them in some of the olive oil until tender.About 10 min. Cool the peppers slightly, then puree. Add two of the egg whites and half breadcrumbs and puree again until combined. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Heat the rest of the olive oil and cook mushrooms until tender, approx 5 min.Increase heat and continue to cook until all moisture is evaporated( another 10 min). Allow to cool and puree. Add the remaining egg whites ,breadcrumbs, and herbs. Process and set aside.
Blanch spinach for 1 min in boiling water. Drain and allow to dry on paper towels for all ,moisture to be absorbed.
Preheat oven to 425 and line loaf pan( non reactive) with parchment paper.Line the spears side by side with each one alternating for design.
Sprinkle half of the chopped red pepper over spears. Take half of red pepper puree an spread evenly. Sprinkle some spinach mixture over as the next layer. Take all of mushroom mixture and spread. Spread rest of spinach.Sprinkle remaining chopped red peppers. Spread rest of red pepper puree and smooth top. cover with nonstick parchment paper and cook for 50 min to 1 hours. Test to see if done if knife comes out clean. Allow terrine to cool in pan and chill in the refrigerator at least 7 hours or overnight. Turn out terrine on a flat serving dish and peel off lining paper. Cut into slices and serve.

* I cooked mine in a water bath in the oven with the pan resting in a another pan of water.

You can serve this healthy terrine dressed with vinaigrette and lettuce leaves.

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Torta Sbrisolona :Simplicity at Its Best

Flipping through Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook while, bored, itching to use my new Kitchen Aid( early B day present), and seeing what can I possibly make with the aforementioned device without going to the store.... I saw this lovely gem. I love almonds and any cookie made with them "Is a good thing". Certain Someone now has been in Europe going on three weeks and I needed something warm and comforting along with the Kitchen Aid he purchased for me in case he misses out on the actual Bday.Aww work, but he must do it to be able to afford our toys. I digress. So I see this recipe that's calls for just a few simple ingredients. Torta Sbrisolona originates from Mantua , Italy and essentially is a cake/cookie that hails from a time when few could afford the more costly ingredients of richer sweets. Not surprisingly its Christmas favorite. I love the simplicity of this with just a cup of hot tea. I can also see it served alongside some warm spiced apples and ice cream. Enjoy.

Torta Sbrisolona adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted Butter

1 3/4 cups all purpose Flour

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, finely ground

3/4 cup of sugar ( I used Turbinado Raw Sugar)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ( In addition I added a touch of amaretto flavoring)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10 inch spring form pan: set aside. Whisk together all ingredients except the butter in a large bowl. Cut in the butter gradually and blend until mixture is completely incorporated. There should be no dry crumbs.

Gently press all except 1/4 of mixture into the spring form pan. Sprinkle the rest of the mixture( streusal /crumb like) on top of the pressed mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until golden.Reduce temp to 300 and bake for 10 more minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Removes sides to unmold. Cookie can be kept wrapped up to three days.

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