Friday, October 30, 2009

Plate Swap and Peanut Butter Cookies

plate-front edge

It started back in August on Twitter. Chery Tan (@cheryltan88) of A Tiger in the Kitchen, tossed an idea out to the twitterverse.

"Any food bloggers interested in drawing names and trading plates?"

Well, those weren't her exact words, but that was the gist of it. I love dishes of all kinds—old, new, bowls, plates, glasses, tea cups—you name it. It's part of the reason I love blogging about food. I get to use the various dishes I've picked up here and there, many at antique shops, some as gifts, all lovely in their own way.

So I jumped all over this idea, and sent Cheryl a direct message on the spot."I love this idea. I'm not "strictly" a food blogger, but if that's not a problem, I would love to participate." And I was in!

Cheryl gathered everyone's info, passed out names, and #plateswap was ON. Jeff Shively (@jeff_shively) and I had each other's names. Jeff, a fellow Hoosier, has a terrific and deliciously hilarious food blog over at Culinary Disasters. Don't let the name fool you—there's nary a disaster in site, just great food, beautiful photos and a healthy dose of humor.

Edit: Apparently, someone else sent me this plate, not Jeff. Duhn duhn duhn... Who could it be?? When I find out, I'll let you know!

Jeff A mystery #plateswap participant sent me this beautiful plate.
plate in box-vert

Not only is it green—my favorite color—it's also from Anthropologie, one of my favorite, drool-inducing shops. I've often said I could live in one of their stores. Sigh.

Thanks again, Jeff  Mystery Plate Giver!

 A great big "Thank You" to Cheryl for her coordination efforts and fun idea! Everyone, do yourself a favor and go to Cheryl's blog A Tiger In The Kitchen. Cheryl is a hellova journalist and her style and charm carry over into her food blog. Reviews, recipes and lots of gorgeous photography abound. Check it out!

Now. About those scrumptious cookies ON the plate...
plate-PB close

These were actually made by Dwight, so I can't take any credit for them, but they were so photogenic, I just had to use them to showcase the plate. These cookies are phenomenal. I would say that the title is not an exaggeration. So how about the recipe, eh?

plate-full of cookies2

Dwight found this on RecipeZaar courtesy of momofallboys:

The Last Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe You'll Ever Try

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter, your choice (Dwight used crunchy)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 3/4 cups flour
12 ounces peanut butter chips (Dwight left these out)
1 cup nuts (optional-Dwight didn't add any)

Cream peanut butter and margarine, add sugars and mix well.
Add eggs and mix until creamy.
Add remaining ingredients.
Chill for one hour—or just chill between batches.
Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheets—do not flatten.
Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes.

Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling racks or newspaper (to soak up some grease). Store in airtight containers or zip top bags.

NOTES:  Dwight TRIPLED this recipe and it worked out just fine.  Yeah, we had a LOT of cookies. He also used my largest Pampered Chef scoop, not a teaspoon. A teaspoon sized cookie is a sick joke. I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quick Tip — The Versatile Band-Aid

I think we've all had our own "MacGyver" moments. You've got a problem and all you have to work with is a paper clip, a rubber band and piece of discarded gum you found wadded up in a wrapper on your car floor.

Or maybe that's just me.

ANYway. I've become rather proficient at turning the ubiquitous adhesive bandage—A.K.A. the Band-Aid—into a multi-functional powerhouse. I got in the habit of keeping band-aids with me because certain shoes would slip and slide off my heels, giving me at best, a blister and at worst, a bloody mess. Charming. Aside from first aid uses, though, I also carry them for other purposes.

Here's a run down of some of the uses I've found for these handy, portable miracle workers.

I have a pair of jeans that have a tag in the back that drives me nuts. If I don't have a shirt tucked in, the tag is scratchy and irritating. (It's not the kind of tag I can remove.) So I cover it with a band-aid—literally apply the band-aid to the jeans, not to me. That way when the jeans move, the solution moves with it.

Same principle goes for shirts I've had with an irritating seam. Sometimes I'll attach the band-aid directly to the shirt. OR I'll just stick it to my skin at the site.

This is especially helpful with bras. I've had some where one edge, usually at the wire, will irritate my skin. Easy solution—apply a band-aid to that spot on my skin. Or if the strap is a problem, either at a seam or the if slider is scratchy, just wrap a band-aid around the irritating section of strap and problem is solved.

I've even used a band-aid to fix a hem on my pants. Worked like a charm.

What about you? What kinds of MacGyver tricks do you have, either with band-aids or some other object? Share your tips in the comments!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 21—Pain á l'Ancienne


Although I'm sure I'm butchering the pronunciation of this bread when reading it to myself, I'm also sure that it's utterly delicious and surprisingly simple. Welcome to bread #21, Pain á l'Ancienne, a superb, French (duh) bread that seeks to draw as much flavor from the flour as possible.

I took a surprising number of pictures of this bread making process, so be prepared. Gird your bandwidth loins—it's going to be a long and photo-filled post!

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:
This bread starts as many lean breads do, with bread flour, yeast, salt and water, although the water is ice cold as opposed to the usual room temperature or slightly warm. The idea is to slow down the fermentation as much as possible, which is also why the dough is immediately placed in the refrigerator after kneading in the mixer. No sitting on the counter until doubled, just mix and pop in the fridge until tomorrow. Easy peasy.

Day 2 is a bit more involved, but not difficult. First thing you must do is prepare the work area, covering the surface with plenty of flour and have a scraper and water handy for getting the dough out of the bowl and for splitting. 

The dough literally pours out of the bowl, hence the need for plenty of flour.
First, you must coat the dough with yet more flour so that you can gently shape it to roughly 8" x 6". Then you divide it into two width-wise. I goofed and divided it length-wise. Oops. It seems I have to have at least one "oops" in each bread making session. Fortunately, this one was minimal!
A quick note about the photos: I have the timer function set, so I hit the shutter and go about my work while the camera counts to five then fires. Because the light is rather weak and I have the aperture fairly closed, the exposure is relatively long—long enough so that my hands are blurred. I really don't move Superman-fast, as it might appear in the photos!
I decided to use half the dough for baguettes and half for focaccia. The baguettes were quick and easy. Let's see:

First I prepared the pizza peel with corn meal. I would use this to transfer the baguettes to the preheated stone.
Next, I split half the dough into thirds.
Here's where I realized my mistake. The dough pieces were already long and stretched very easily. They quickly became too long for the peel and baking stone. I had to double back the dough onto itself as you would ciabatta.
I had the oven setup for "hearth baking" which means cranking the temp to 500°F and having a steam pan at the ready. Aside from setting off the smoke alarm, the baking went perfectly and the baguettes came out beautifully. I was very pleased with the color. And they smelled fantastic.
Once the cooled a bit, I sliced into them to check the crumb. Success!
From this photo, you also get an idea of the size of the baguettes. They're rather small. But the size certainly did not affect the taste. These were so good. They were crusty and chewy and had an almost buttery flavor. There was just the right amount of saltiness to them as well, which helped bring out the other flavors. Dwight and I really enjoyed them. Naturally, they are best the same day, but do well reheated in the oven (or toaster oven) wrapped in foil.
Now about that other half of the dough. As I mentioned, I'd decided to make focaccia and took my inspiration from fellow BBA baker, Heather of BodaciousGirl. Heather posted a photo on Twitter and I knew that I had to follow her lead—Apple Cinnamon Focaccia. Well, I added walnuts, so mine was Apple Walnut and Cinnamon Focaccia. Let's check it out, shall we:

I took the other half of the dough and placed it in an oiled pan, spreading it out a bit, then covering it for an hour or two to rise.

First, I had to prep all of the ingredients, starting with the apple.
Although it looks like I was about ready to cut off my thumb, I did move it in time, and am happily still attached to all of my digits.
Next is the sugar mixture. I used dark brown sugar to start.
I also added a bit of white sugar, along with a healthy scoop of Penzey's Baking Spice.
Next I chopped a handful of walnuts. Now on to assembly. I should have started with the nuts, but live and learn:
Ready to bake.
The next time I make this, I'll be sure to add some oil or butter—or both—to the top before baking. Even so, it was delicious, especially 20 minutes out of the oven. A great way to enjoy great bread and fall flavors all together.
Did you survive the post? I told you it would be long. But it was worth it, right? I certainly enjoyed this bread and documenting the process. If you're interested in making a great, rustic bread, I highly recommend this recipe. It's most certainly a keeper!
Why not check out some of the other BBA baker's delicious posts:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movie Quotes

Just 'cause I feel like it, here's a sampling of some favorite movie quotes. This isn't an exhaustive list and they're straight out of my memory, not from IMDB, so any errors are all mine.

"Where do they teach you to talk like that? Some Panama 'sailer wanna hump hump' bar, or is this getaway day and your last shot at the liquor cabinet. Go sell crazy some place else. We're all stocked up here."

"I gotta tell ya, if that did it for me, I'd be the happiest man alive."

"How did you end up with a dog?"
"Suckered in, set up, pushed around."


"Wait. I was going to make espresso."

"Yes, yes. Say it. He. Vas. My.  BOYFRIEND!"

"Why're you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?"
"Oh no, it's just they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone'll be wearing them in the future."

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

"PEOPLE? I ain't 'people'. I'm a...'shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament.' It say so. Right there."

"Waddaya think I am, dumb or somethin'? Why, I make more money than Calvin Coolidge... Put together!"

"He's NOT Judge Judy and executioner!"

"Is it true that there is a place in a man's head that if you shoot it, it will blow up?"

"FASCIST!" *gun fire*

"What's it like being stabbed?"
"It was the single most painful experience of my life."
"What was the second most painful?"

"There's no charge for awesomeness. Or attractiveness."

"Cram it up your cram hole, LaFleur."

"You're about as useful as a poopy flavored lollypop."

"Pepper needs a new pair of shorts."

OK, that's it for now. Recognize any of them? Have some of your own? Share them in the comments!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 20—Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire


I apologize in advance for the mostly lousy photos in this post. As you'll read, I had less than ideal conditions for this bread, #20 Multigrain Bread Extraordinare. It's too bad the photos won't do this bread justice—this one was fantastic.

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

As with most of the breads in this book, Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire is a two-day affair. It's simple, though, because day 1 only consists of making a soaker from various grains in three groups. For the first, you choose from  coarse cornmeal, millet, quinoa or amaranth. For the second, rolled oats, buckwheat, or triticale flakes. The third is wheat bran but some BBA bakers used wheat germ with equal success. I went with corn meal, rolled oats and wheat bran, which is what you see in the above photo. To these grains is added a small amount of water, then you let it sit out overnight.

Here's why I made this bread under atypical circumstances. Normally I bake over the weekend so I can used daylight in my photos and have plenty of time for the various stages of bread making. Two weekends ago, when I'd planned on making this bread, I had to work all weekend, leaving no time for baking. I was already behind from the weekend before, when I had to work as well. I'd resigned myself to being a full two weeks behind.

The following Monday morning, I decided to buck my baking trend and finish this bread in one day, so I mixed up the soaker that morning intending to finish it after work. I figured 10+ hours at work was the equivalent of "overnight".

MGE ingredients

When I got home, I immediately went to work on the bread. First thing I had to do was cook some rice. This bread calls for three tablespoons of brown rice, so I used instant brown rice and cooked it in the microwave. Not ideal,  but it seemed to do the trick.

I was out of honey, so I used agave nectar instead. This bread also calls for brown sugar and buttermilk.


The dough was very wet, so I ended up adding quite a bit of extra flour to get it to come together. PR said it would smooth out and the ingredients would disappear "to an extent" but my dough was still rather coarse. No mind. It came together fine and was ready to ferment at room temp for about 90 minutes until doubled.

MGE-after ferment

I decided to do a free-form loaf because I was afraid the dough would be too much for the loaf pan.


I covered the loaf and popped it into my "proofing box" a.k.a. the microwave. I nuke a cup of water for a minute then leave that in for humidity and heat.

MGE-proofing box

Approximately 1 hour later, the bread looked like this:
It was ready to bake. I brushed the top with water and added some sesame and poppy seeds. It baked about 35-40 minutes and came out lovely and fragrant.

And big.

It didn't get much oven spring, but was still quite a large loaf of bread. It seriously smelled wonderful and was very difficult to leave alone. But by then, it was very much time to go to bed, so the bread would have to wait until the morning.

It was worth the wait! I loved the touch of sweetness from the brown sugar and agave nectar. The grains added a nice bit of crunch and the buttermilk made it soft and tender. It was just about perfect and needed nothing to taste great. I kept coming back for plain slices throughout the next couple of days. This is definitely worth making again and again.

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