Tag Archives: savory

Back to Baking

<alt img="I Used to Bake"/>

Another year has nearly gone since my last post. Each time I promise to write more often, everything else seems to be more important. Of course, cooking the easiest meals possible and baking nothing in months is an even better reason considering the main reason for this site is food.

In a recent jaywalk, I happened onto an announcement that the Daring Bakers had decided to call it quits. Although the website is still up and running, there will be no more challenges. My nostalgia has been strong enough to get me thinking about baking regularly again. Once a month certainly isn’t enough to keep me from anything I’m currently involved in (read supposed to be doing), and at this point in time, I believe I need and will benefit from the pleasant diversion baking provides. There is something about planning, gathering ingredients, and staying on a set course step by step to its conclusion. I miss it.

I also miss the camaraderie that comes  when a community engages in the same task at the same time. I know Facebook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it has allowed me to stay in touch with so many of the Daring Baker members I met ten years ago.

That said, I have an announcement!

I’ve decided to start a baking group for anyone interested. Everyone is invited to participate each month as personal tastes and calendars allow. The guidelines will be simple and as flexible as someone chooses to make them, experimentation will be encouraged, and hopefully, we’ll have fun while we learn something new.

If you’re interested, then head on over to read about the details on Baking on the 15th.

Our first recipe (should we choose to accept the challenge!) is Strawberry Choux Cake. Think giant cream puff and you might be close.

I guess this means I’ll be more diligent about writing here at least once a month.

 

Steak and Guinness Pie

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about locally grown food lately — not unusual for me by any means,  but my thoughts have just been more intensely focused.  So it shouldn’t be unusual for an article like “Butchers’ Banquet:  England’s Lincolnshire Wolds” published in the October 2011 issue of Saveur to have an impact on me.  I’m always looking for truly good recipes for traditional food, and even though I’m not British, I have solid connections.   In 1881 at the age of three, my great-grandfather sailed with his family from Newport, Wales to San Francisco hoping to find inexpensive land where his family might grow apples.  But that’s a story for another day.

This is more about the group of men mentioned in the article who have gotten together over years and years to enjoy a Sunday meal each week.  They know where the food has been grown, how it’s been grown, and have prepared it to showcase its quality.  Of course, it helps that they’re in the business.  I’d like to be invited to a table like that to hear the talk and understand more about what they know.  I’ll work on that from here in San Diego and maybe, just maybe, by the end of this year, I’ll know more about the more than 6,000 farms in our county and the farmers who tend them.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share these great Steak & Guinness pies with you.  My father-in-law loves Stilton and will jump at any excuse to tuck his napkin into his shirt and cozy up to a plate of hot food like this with a pint.  The recipe isn’t challenging, but does take some time, so plan ahead.  It’s worth it.

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Crusty Spinach Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Bread Rolls

Spinach Feta Sun-dried Tomato Rolls

Sometimes I’d love to skip dinner.

It’s beautiful in the evening just before the sun has set and I want to be on the patio enjoying the cool, dry air, watching the light against the the trees and houses change as the sun disappears into the Pacific.  I don’t want to waste one second of daylight at this time of year when the days are longest and sometimes, the temperature barely fluctuates between day and night.

Like right now.  It’s nearly seven and the sun isn’t quite ready to set.  Dinner is ready to prepare and won’t take all that long, but I’d rather be sitting in one of the chairs outside doing not much of anything.

All I’d need to complete the picture is some soft cheese — like burrata, perhaps some proscuitto, a handful of the sweet little sungold tomatoes my plant loves to produce, a nice crisp white wine, and good crusty rolls with a bit of something else added — like spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes.

If you’ve tried any of the recipes in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, then you know they’ll be good.  But do you know the secret to make them even more crusty?

I do.  And it works every single time.

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Casatiello: Italian Brioche

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I’ve been trying to guilt myself into finishing what needs to be finished lately and in the process have confirmed what I suspected:  I am a closet un-finisher — someone who can run a great race then come to a dead stop inches from the finish line.  Perhaps a quarter of a lap is more accurate, but you get the idea, I hope.  With respect to my on-going obsession with food, this translates to a few projects I’ve become involved in then haven’t completed.  In particular, tops on the list is the project Nicole of Pinch My Salt gave birth to, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge .  Then there was my own quest to work through Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season” to help keep me healthy in the time leading up to the holidays. That would be the holiday season of 2009. It seemed completely reasonable to make five salads in a seven day period at the time.  Most sadly, the Daring Bakers challenges have passed by, one after the other, and the months along with them.  The first two projects have been long neglected in my writing, but I think of them from time to time because of the photos I’ve taken of the recipes completed.  It’s torturous being reminded of one’s shortcomings in such vivid color and clarity. With respect to the Daring Baker challenges, I’ve got much more to make up than available time on my food calendar.

I’ve just sighed.  You know that feeling, right?  The one that lets you know you’re not all you’re chalked up to be.  Yes, that one.

It’s humbling.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that some attempt to breathe life into what I once considered worthy goals is important.  I’ll blame this bit of retrospection on having to rebuild my photo libraries due to a new Mac and software.  Viewing all of those photos provided me the opportunity to revisit quite a few recipes I made and enjoyed but never wrote about.   It’s not quite like finding the perfect little black dress purchased on sale, then hung in the closet and forgotten until needed for a special occasion, but close.  It’s all about promise.

Bread is like that — about promise.  It generally promises that after all the steps — kneading, waiting, punching, shaping, and then waiting some more — you’ll actually get to taste it and share it with someone you know will like it. With respect to brioche, a bread containing a high percentage of butter, there is quite a bit of waiting.  Most brioche dough has to rest overnight in the refrigerator, so it does take some thinking ahead if you are like I am — someone who doesn’t make bread as often as she’d like.  I have made brioche before with good results, thanks to Sherry Yard’s Lean Brioche recipe.  I’ve also made Reinhart’s Poor Man’s Brioche, but I’ll save that one for another time because his recipe for Casatiello is more interesting.

Casatiello is a savory Easter celebration bread from the Campania region of Italy.  It is traditionally made with lard and baked in paper molds. The incorporation of salami and cheese are related to ancient associations with rites of spring and fertility.  Today, lard is often omitted or in some cases, shortening used in its place.  Additionally, many bakers use different types of cheese and meat.

I’ve added fresh sage to my adaptation of Reinhart’s recipe.

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Cornish Pasties

Suffice to say that my plans to get several posts written and queued up before we leave on vacation this Sunday never materialized.  Close, but no cigar. Living in a hobbling, semi-ambulatory state for the last five days put me in my place more than once, and I found myself thinking, Really?  Do I really need to write one more recipe?  Or should I focus on getting this knee better so I can actually walk?

Of course I need to write.  Just one more.

One.

The last minute shopping has been done, the house is relatively clean, tickets, shuttles, and reservations are in order.  Maps, check.  Routes, check.  Super-strength enormous bandaids for my feet, check.  Nine months of obsessive planning, check. It looks like we’re ready for our trip to the UK.

We’ll be in London for four days, then drive through Kent, and East and West Sussex, staying a couple of nights along the way, cutting up toward Oxford and then the countryside near Worcester where we’ll stay three days.  The last portion of our stay will see us in York, then Cambridge and Essex before we drive back to Heathrow and our trip home.  It promises to be a wild two weeks, and like the last time, I’m sure at least one intelligent Brit will say, “Why are you Americans always in such a hurry?  You can’t really see the UK in less than a month.”  And we know they’re right, of course, but who can afford it?  Who can stay away from work that long?

Not us.

If we had the time and resources, we’d have made it to Cumbria near the Scottish border to enjoy the beautiful Lake District along the way.  And we’d definitely would have made time for a drive through Dorset to Dartmoor and Plymouth, where one of my great-grandfathers boarded an old sailing ship to journey through the Straits of Magellan to Sebastapol, California more than a century ago.

There will always be another time for Cornwall, with its craggy coastline and Arthurian legends, but I couldn’t wait for that time to try an authentic Cornish Pasty.

Is it authentic if it’s made by someone from Southern California who’s had sound Cornish advice?

Who cares if they’re as delicious as these.

Seriously.

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