Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dear Camry Driving #&@*%!#,

Hey, "neighbor." Boy it sure was a pleasure being tailgated by you on the way home yesterday. It was pretty awesome. But even better? When you PASSED me in our neighborhood, because going 30mph in a residential neighborhood just wasn't fast enough for you. Now THAT was awesome.

Because, you know, all of the kids out riding their bikes and people walking their dogs - they don't matter. Go ahead and pass another car and be a complete %$@# about it. Getting home after a hard day at work SHOULD be a race and a total disregard for the safety of your neighbors.

You're swell. I sure hope I see you around again. I have a couple of words for you...



Monday, May 17, 2010

The Oddest Things Make Me Happy


On my recent trip/jaunt/quest to Shipshewana, my mom and I made a few stops, one of which left me even more giddy than the one to E&S Sales. What could accomplish this more than inexpensive baking supplies?

Fabric, that's what. Rows and rows and rows of gorgeous, delicious, sob-inducing fabrics.

Seriously, I actually get a bit weepy in really amazing fabric shops. There's just something about all of the COLORS and PATTERNS and the POSSIBILITIES that they represent. Actually, when I start thinking about all of the possibilities and the shear volume of the selection I go from weepy to slightly panicky. It's a bit overwhelming. 

But the main emotion is happiness. If I could, I would decorate my home with bolts of fabric, just like the displays at the store. I'm not kidding. Dwight would think I'd lost my marbles, but how gorgeous would that be? It's like a library of fabric instead of books. Spines of pattern and color, lined up neatly on wooden shelves. Can you hear my sigh of delight from where you are?

Lolly's Fabrics & Quilts is one of those shops. I walk in and sigh. Then gasp repeatedly as I flit from display to display, oohing and aahhing over the various selections. This time, I nearly had sensory overload when one of the the first things I saw were shelves of precut fabric in the most amazing groups of patterns. There were squares of various sizes, but there were also rolls of strips of fabric. What WERE these gorgeous things? I wanted ten of them to scatter over my tables and shelves to use as decoration, never mind opening them up and SEWING with them.

My mom knew what they were. They're called "jelly rolls" and I've been out of the sewing loop for a some time because apparently, they've been around for a little while. These were from Moda fabric. They not only make jelly rolls, they have honey buns, dessert rolls, turnovers, layer cakes and charm packs. I might die from the cuteness.

Speaking of cuteness overload, Moda's blog is called the Moda Bake Shop and has a complete bakery theme —right up my alley on both levels! Their fabric packs are the "bakery" products, the projects using them are called "recipes" and the quilters and sewers that put them together are the "chefs."


So not only does Moda have some of the most beautiful, fun, original and sigh-inducing fabrics, they have this fantastic concept and theme to bring it all together.

OK, back to my fabric store adventure... I knew I wanted to get SOMEthing from Moda, but I have to be honest — fabric's not cheap and I had no idea what I was going to do with it — but I had to get something. Had. To. So I settled on a charm pack—a package of 42 5" squares. The hardest part was deciding which pack to get. But I ended up picking "Hunky Dory" by Chez Moi.

If you're anything like me — crazy about color, design and fabric — you're drooling all over your keyboard right about now.

I mean… LOOK at these fabrics—the colors, the patterns. They're fantastic. Now I have to stop staring at them at actually MAKE something with them. Oh, the possibilities…

Saturday, May 15, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #34 — Pumpernickel Rye

I've got one word for this bread—YUM! BBA bread #34 Pumpernickel Rye...

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a few have finished!). Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

This bread began with a trip. Or maybe it was more of a jaunt. Or a quest. Something like that. Anyway. I was on the hunt for the elusive "pumpernickel-grind" rye flour. I couldn't find it at the store and didn't think about it in time to order some from King Arthur flour—because I'm pretty sure THEY would have it.

I called my mom to see if she'd have any insight on where to find such flour and she gave me a few  suggestions that sounded promising. I followed up with phone calls but struck out each time. But she also mentioned an Amish store that might have it and figured that was my best bet. So I invited mom along and we took a trip (jaunt? quest?) to Shipshewana, and adorable Amish town about 45 minutes east.

Shipshewana* is quite the tourist town and rightly so. It's full of shops big and small filled with quilts and fabric and candy and furniture and ... everything. Throw in the charm of horse and buggies, homemade clothes drying on lines at nearly every home and slightly undulating farm land plowed with literal horse power, and it's downright bucolic.

But even THEY didn't have pumpernickel grind rye flour. Well, crud. BUT. There was the rest of E & S Sales to drool over. Move over Target. I think I found my new favorite store. There's nothing fancy about this store, but what it lacks in shelves designed by marketing pros and pimped out displays, it makes up for in selection. I could have dropped my entire paycheck at this place, but I don't know where I'd store everything because the prices were AH-mazing. I got a 10 lb bag of high-protein (i.e. bread) flour for $5.71.
bread flour-bulk

I KNOW! A 5lb bag at the grocery store will run anywhere from $3-$5. Score! And everything was like that. They sold most things by the pound in nondescript plastic bags with twist tie closures—bulk items without having to measure it out yourself. They had tons of flours (not the one I wanted, unfortunately), spices, dried fruits, cheeses, cookie/cake decorating sugars and sprinkles ... and on and on.
(Are you still with me? Good. I promise I'm getting to the bread soon)

I didn't find the right flour, but I did find this:
PN-rye flakes
Rye flakes. Like oatmeal but with rye. "Hm", I pondered. "I think I could grind this—coarsely." (Pumpernickel rye is also called coarse ground rye)...DING DING DING. We have a winner. And into my shopping cart it went.

Back at home, drunk on bargain baking ingredients shopping, I ran the rye flakes through my food processor.
PN-rye flakes in processor

It took a few minutes, but eventually, I ended up with this:
 PN-rye flakes chopped
Works for me.

I mixed a cup of the ground rye flakes with a cup of starter and 3/4 cup water and let that sit out for 4-5 hours, then into the fridge for an overnight stay.

The next day, you finish mixing it all up. In addition to the rye starter made the day before, you add bread flour, some brown sugar, salt, yeast, a little bit of oil and bread crumbs. Now, if I'd been paying attention, I would have saved some of my miche for this part, but I didn't. Crumbs are optional, but I had some aging store-bought (I know, I know) whole wheat hamburger buns and decided to turn them into bread crumbs.
PN-bread crumbs

You also add cocoa, carob powder, instant coffee or liquid caramel coloring to achieve the distinct color of pumpernickel. I didn't have luck using coffee with my marble rye, so I went the traditional route and used cocoa.

Because rye can get gummy if you mix it too long, I only let the mixer knead the dough for about 4 minutes and called it good. I put it in an oiled bowl and let it ferment about 2 hours, until it doubled.

I decided to bake these in loaf pans rather than go with free standing boules that would need to be hearth baked. I didn't feel like messing with steam pans and spraying the inside of the oven. So loaves it was!
PN-shaped 1

I didn't take lots of time shaping because I didn't want to degas the dough. In about 90 minutes, they looked like this:

They weren't remotely cresting the pans as PR says they should, but they'd clearly risen and looked good to me. Into the oven they went, as you see, on the sheet pan.
In about 40 minutes, I had two lovely loaves that smelled wonderful.
A bit on the small side, but delicious nonetheless. I might have added too much cocoa powder because there was a distinct if subtle chocolate flavor to them. The crumb, though, was about perfect—fairly dense yet soft, with a really nice texture and thin, chewy crust. I thought it tasted great and definitely see myself making this again.

Check out the efforts of some of the other BBA bakers:

Cathy at Bread Experience (Awesome step by step pics and comparison between cloche baking and using a disposable aluminum roasting pan–a great read!)

Sally at Bewitching Kitchen (Seriously, click on this link. Her loaves are absolutely gorgeous!)

Cindy at Salt and Serenity (Another post filled with great photos, plus Cindy talks about how this bread brought back childhood memories.)

*Is it just me, or does the fact that an Amish town have a website make you chuckle, even just a little? 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lasagna Rolls

lasagna roll-vert

Dwight & I used to go to a particular local Italian restaurant on a semi-regular basis. It's not a dive, but I guess you could call it "shabby chic" if by "shabby" you mean "gaudy" and by "chic" you mean "knick-knacks". This place is covered with crap, walls and ceiling. Decorative umbrellas, fake flowers, macramé plant holders, gaudy "artwork", MORE fake flowers, trellis panels, and all kinds of other things I can't remember (it's been a while). This is a restaurant Dwight used to go to before we were ever dating, and he told me that it used to be even WORSE. There wasn't a bare spot in the joint. Now, at least you can see parts of the walls here and there.

But none of that matters, because the food is great. You better have reservations or get their early or you won't get a table. One of the dishes that someone at the table almost always orders are the lasagna rollups. We jokingly refer to them as "lasagna logs" but they are absolutely delicious—three rolls swimming in a sea of rich marinara. And if you're feeling extra manly, you can order it with giant meatballs. Oh, yeah.

So I've been wanting to reproduce this dish for years. I tried once and got it all wrong. I don't know what I was thinking (clearly I wasn't) but I put the rolls on their sides, like cinnamon rolls. Well, as you can imagine, if you think about that for a sec...  the filling goes to the bottom and spills out everywhere. Doh.

I hadn't thought about them in a long time until I saw The Food Addict's Spinach Lasagna Rolls on Foodgawker. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. This was it, I just knew it.

And me being me, I kinda sorta followed the recipe but not really. I followed the IDEA. And what an idea it was. Let's check it out:

Part of the reason I wanted to make this particular dish when I did (a week ago) was because I had a bag of fresh spinach in the crisper drawer getting decidedly uncrispy with each passing day. A few of the leaves were already heading toward Slime Town (eew), so I fished out the good ones and gave 'em a bath.
washed spinach

Then I put the rinsed leaves in a microwave safe bowl and nuked them for a minute on high.
spinach in bowl

Not quite ready. So I went another minute.

Better. I wanted to pre-wilt the spinach because they give off so much water when they cook and I didn't want soggy lasagna logs, er, rolls.

I stirred them around..

Then squeeeeeesed the spinach as much as I could. Amazing what's left over! About twice this would have been ideal, but I made due.

I used whole wheat noodles in an attempt to make my love of pasta at least a bit more healthy. (They tasted great.) I cooked the noodles al dente, rinsed and drained to cool and set them out on wax paper.

I layered them with the cheese mixture (recipe below) and the spicy Italian sausage I cooked while the noodles boiled and the sauce simmered...

then the wilted spinach...

finally the sauce ("recipe" to follow).

I rolled them up (photos by Dwight)...

Then placed them in a 9x13 dish with some sauce in the bottom, layered more sauce all over the top...
rolls in pan

then topped each roll with cheese. This cheese:

You can wait to add the cheese about 15 minutes in if you want to avoid over browning it. Bake at 350°F for a metal pan, 325°F for glass, for 20-30 minutes. 

Grab a spatula, dish them out with a side of fresh green beans and you've got yourself one tasty meal. MAN, these were good. Really, really good. Give them a shot!
lasagna roll-square crop

The Recipes (makes 8 rolls)
You can easily make this vegetarian by eliminating the meat or using a meat substitute. I LOVE Morningstar Farm's sausage crumbles. It's the bomb. (I use it on my pizza!)
Add more spinach (I will next time). Add a layer of sauteed mushrooms. Go crazy!

The Sauce
Please feel free to use whatever sauce you prefer, your own or jar of choice. My grocery store had the large cans of Dei Fratelli tomato products on sale for $1 each (I know!) so I decided to make my own.
Please note that most of these measurements are approximate as I was tossing in spices willy nilly.
Also, I had tons left over which is either good or bad. Good, because I also had lots of sausage left over so I had instant meat sauce for a quick pasta dinner. Bad if you're not good with leftovers.

2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 scant Tbsp "garlic pepper" - a salt-free blend I found that has dehydrated garlic bits with other spices
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

Combine, bring to a slow boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 20-30 minutes, while you're fixing the other parts.

The Cheese
1 8 oz. container ricotta cheese (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (forgot this ingredient when I first published this post-sorry for the omission!)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

Mix all thoroughly. I made 8 rolls but had enough cheese leftover for at least one more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #33 — Poilane-Style Miche


This is it. THE ONE. The cover bread. You know, that gigantic loaf in the apprentice's arms? Yep, I finally made it to that formula—Poilane-Style Miche. So how did it go? Funny you should ask...

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a few have finished!). Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

Due to the shear size of this bread, I decided to half the recipe. PR suggests just dividing the dough, but I didn't need or want that much bread around, so I just halved it from the start.

This is a whole wheat bread leavened entirely with wild yeast (aka my starter, "Tim"). That, along with lots of flour, some salt, and some water, is all there is to this bread. Well, as far as ingredients go. As far as getting all of those parts to come together and behave they way you want, that's an entirely different story. Lionel Poilane, Peter Reinhart and many others have spent more time that I can imagine getting this bread just right.

All of the initial mixing steps went without a hitch. The dough rose on schedule and looked about perfect to my novice eyes. I was just thrilled that this one rose, unlike my ill-fated 100% sourdough rye. It was a the shaping stage the I finally remember to, you know, DOCUMENT the process.


This bread calls for a banneton, a proofing basket or bowl specifically for bread. If you've ever seen a loaf of bread with concentric rings on the top, you've seen a bread proofed in a banneton. The rings are the result of the shape of the basket. They can be pricey, but you can easily improvise at home. Daniel at Ährelich Gesagt made his with a piece of linen sewn around a colander. I used a shallow stainless steel bowl lined with a floured dishtowel. I chose one with a nifty waffle pattern (from Crate & Barrel similar to these) to give the crust some added interest.


I (gently) dumped the dough onto the work surface...

And worked it into a boule.
(Get a look at that gluten structure!)

The shaped dough then goes into the proofing bowl, seam side up.
PSM-5-in couche

I covered it and let it proof, and in exactly 3 hours, it looked like this:


Unfortunately, I sort of screwed up after this. I transferred the dough to my peel by putting the peel over the bowl and turning the whole thing over, trying to degass it as little as possible. I sprinkled corn meal on the dough instead of on the peel because of the whole inversion thing I attempted.
PSM-7-on peel

That worked great, but I wasn't prepared after that. I didn't have a razor blade handy and the dough sat on the peel FAR too long. You can see how much it "spread" from the previous photo to this one.

I had the oven cranked for "hearth baking" and managed to get the dough on the stone, did the steam song and dance and hoped for the best.

All in all, I'd say it turned out "OK". I was disappointed with myself for having let it spread out and was disappointed in the pale crust. One of these days I'll get that part down. It did look nice, though, just not *quite* what I wanted. I mean, look at the cover of the book... then look at mine. See?
bba book

As far as the taste goes, I was very pleased. It was distinctly sour, as it should be, and the crumb was dense and chewy – in a good way. Because I'm not a fan of sourdough, this wasn't a favorite for me. The tang wasn't overly strong, just not my cup of tea – or slice of bread, as it were.


Regardless, it was a good experience. I was quite worried after the 100% sourdough rye and this turned it all around. Hey, look at me. I CAN make a decent 100% sourdough bread - hooray!

For an incredible read on this bread, within the Challenge and out, please visit parts 1, 2 and 3 of Daniel's in-depth look at Le Pain Poilane. Daniel talks about his experience with the bread as a baker and a consumer and provides tons of information on the bread and its bakeries.

Please check out these other BBA posts as well:
Oggi at I Can do That
txfarmer's blog - the text is Chinese, but the photos are stunning!
Katya at Second Dinner - lovely loaf baked in a clay baker
Janice at Round the Table

Saturday, May 1, 2010


It's hard to believe May is already upon us, but Mother Nature sure knows. It rained overnight so everything is intensely green and bright despite the clouds. It's warm and damp, humid… and absolutely wonderful.

I find it kind of funny that days just like this instantly remind me of being in Hawaii. Dwight and I had the great good fortune to visit not once, but twice, about 7 years ago. It always strikes me as a bit humorous that a warm, cloudy, possibly rainy, most certainly damp day is what takes me back. You'd think it would a bright, hot, sunny day. But you see, we visited in December and January, the rainy months. So days like to today are what winter looks like in Hawaii. Which is precisely why I want to live there NOW and most definitely want to retire there someday sooner than later.

I would like to go back to Hawaii when it's not the rainy season, but for now, I really like that I can look on a day like today and smile, breathing deeply, remembering paradise as I experienced it, in turn having a bit of here, now.

I don't have a scanner at home and our trips were pre-digital camera days, so I had to take pictures of pictures.

HI from car
This was a typical scene from the car. Just beautiful.

HI northshore
A sunny day, but very windy. This is the North Shore of Oahu – surfing paradise.

Maui. We were heading out to Molokini Crater to snorkel.
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