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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kitchen face-lift {part four} – Taking a turn for the ridiculous

So.  Do you remember that little face-lift we started on our kitchen? 

We were just going to paint.  Then we decided to replace the floor after we ripped out the old pantry and built a new one.  But in the midst of all of this, we were absolutely, without question, no-doubt-about-it going to keep the existing cabinets and countertops.

Remember that? 

If not, see the part one, part two and part three blog posts.

Well, we’ve turned a corner into the land of “this is ridiculous.”


My son walked into the kitchen this morning after my husband removed the cabinets, cook top and wall oven and pronounced:

“This place is out of business!”

Yes, son.  Yes it is.

Monday, December 27, 2010

BBA Challenge #25 – Pizza Napoletana

Historically, I have made a simple pizza crust from my sourdough (wild yeast) starter. So not involving her here made me a little sad. But I was going to try it (all the while thinking that it wouldn’t be as good).

I don’t know about you, but when I bake bread, things get a little messy…


On to the dough…



On twitter that day, I wondered aloud, “To toss or not to toss. That is the question.” Well, two of my baking buddies convinced me that I couldn’t not at least try to toss the dough. So, I decided I would in spite of my concerns about pizza dough ending up on the ceiling.

Well, it looks like the ceiling was the least of my concerns.


But, when it’s going into a 550+ degree oven, I’m not too concerned about a little floor dirt. NOTHING would survive that oven.

I finally got it pulled into a somewhat amoeba-esque shape and let my daughter finish off the toppings.

100_7939 100_7940 100_7941 What truly amazed me was how easily the next two balls of dough pulled into almost perfectly round shapes. With all my messing around, the first ball of dough was not as easy to shape. But the next two, with the gluten so completely relaxed… it was a SNAP. A couple of quick hand movements and it was done.


As you can see, we obviously made pepperoni pizza. But I also made one of my favorites… lamb pita pizza.

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This pizza definitely got a seal of approval from my family!


We need to make pizza again. Soon.

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BBA Challenge #24 - Panettone

As you can see from the dates of all my pictures, I baked this bread much earlier in the year. I felt like it might be time to actually post this.


Panettone is one of those breads that I was not really looking forward to. It has all kinds of dried fruits and didn’t really look like it was up my alley from the pictures. Basically it looks like fruit cake except in a yeast bread form.

So maybe it’s timely that I’m posting this around Christmas-time.

The only thing is that fruit cake has never been the slightest bit appealing to me. Maybe it’s the pecans. Maybe it’s the candied fruit. May it’s the low proportion of cake to the other two ingredients. I don’t know. But me and fruit cake = meh.

So getting to this bread was not terribly exciting for me. However, as part of the challenge, I was interested to make it and see how it went.

I always look for new ways to use my wild yeast starter, and when I found out that this was one, I was pretty excited.

Wait, have I ever shown you a picture of my wild yeast (sourdough) starter? Well, like any proud mama, here she is…


Isn’t she just the cutest thing?!?! All those bubbles just make her beautiful, don’t you think?

Ahhh. But moving on.

I don’t know why, but I found it interesting that when I combined the vanilla, rum and orange extract that the mixture became cloudy. I felt a little like a mad scientist as it happened.



But I digress.

Next came the process of seeing what fruits I was going to use. I’ve already mentioned my aversion to the idea of candied fruits so clearly, it would be some blend of dried fruits; the exact blend would be dictated by what I had on hand. Ultimately, my fruit combination consisted of raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried dates, and dried apricots.

100_7838 And then came the process of actually making the dough and bread….


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The bread turned out beautifully.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t hate it when I tried it. And my husband actually said he liked it.




I made some of the dough into little muffin type rolls with the intent of doing the “Holiday Bread Brule” as described in the Grace Note on page 206. Without going into great detail, we’ll just leave it at… not so much. But the bread pudding it made was pretty good and would be a nice addition to any Christmas or holiday dessert menu.

I don’t know that this would be one that I would do a lot, but would definitely consider it for making bread pudding.

To see my other Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge blog posts and to read about the challenge, go here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holy Globuli, Batman: A lesson in Ancient Roman cooking

Sarah is taking Latin this year as a fourth grader.  Our school ascribes to the classical education method which includes, obviously, everyone taking Latin for a number of years beginning in fourth grade. 

When she came home with an extra credit project to make a dish (and write about their experience in making it) that they might have had in Ancient Rome for the Saturnalia celebration, I knew that this was right up our alley.

As I began to search for recipes on the internets, I came across this squidoo page that had several recipes on it.  Among those was Globuli, which is what Sarah ultimately chose to make and write about.

This is the recipe we followed as stated on the squidoo page liked above:


Curd cheese (or Ricotta), 500 g or about 1lb 
1 cup semolina
olive oil

Press curd cheese through sieve or let it hang in cheese cloth until it's drained well. Mix with the semolina into a loose dough. Let it sit for a few hours.

With wet hands form the mixture into dumplings. Quickly fry them in olive oil for a few minutes. Drain and roll in honey.


We talked a lot as we worked about the types of conditions the Ancient Romans would have cooked in.  We talked about how they wouldn’t have had refrigeration and that their ingredients would have all been basically room temperature.  We also discussed that they wouldn’t have had precise measuring cups and tools and figured that they would have “eyeballed” most of their ingredients.  We tried to use very simple tools, but did break down and use the spring loaded scoop to help measure out the balls of the dough.  

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Here is her write-up (exactly as she wrote it):

“I opened the lid to the ricotta.  It was cold so we heated it up for 35 seconds in the microwave.  They did not have refrigreaters so their ingredients would be room temp.  We then let it set a while and then mixed it up with semolina, semolina was a flower made with wheat from Italy.  It looked good, but we had to wait a few hours.

Next I wet my hands and put some dough in my hand.  I rolled it around into a smooth ball.  After I made them all I started to put in hot olive oil to fry them.  After that I put them on a sheet to drain the oil.  Then I stirred them in honey.  Then I put them on a plate.  I tried on, and it was yummy.  I had a good time.”

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Mike and I each tasted a bite and it tasted a little bit like a hush-puppie. 


So here’s to Ancient Roman cooking.  Very few ingredients and simple tools.  But I’ll take refrigeration and a spring loaded scoop any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

King Arthur Baking Demonstrations and a Giveaway

**Congrats Rachelizabeth!!**

A couple of weeks ago, in his sermon, our pastor told a little story of a man who was asked if he knew what his wife’s favorite flower was. “Of course,” he said, “Pillsbury.”

Amidst the chuckles from the congregation, I looked over at Mike who had that “what an idiot” look on his face. He then motioned with his hand toward me and said with a knowing laugh, “King Arthur, right?”

Yes, baby. You know me too well.

King Arthur is my favorite flour. I can’t always purchase it because of the price. But if I had my preference, I would probably use it all the time. It is such good quality without all the additional processing that many of the less expensive brands use.

So to tell you that I was excited to find out earlier this year that their travelling baking demonstrations would be coming to North Texas would be a huge understatement.

I attended both their Pies and Tarts and Sweet Yeast Breads demonstrations in Grapevine yesterday. Part of me said, “Why are you bothering? These are not topics that you have great anxiety over anymore.” But then I decided that you just never know what little tip you might pick up.

So I went to both sessions and they were pretty good. I did, in fact, pick up a few little hints and tips that I hadn’t thought of before. The kids even went with me to the evening session about bread and both enjoyed watching her make cinnamon rolls (and I don’t think there is any way I’ll get through this weekend without making a batch, just so you know).

And I even won some door prizes of 5 pound bags of flour. I won one of them when I went to the class at noon and then each of my kids and I won one at the evening bread demo. It was awesome.

So, in case you either live in the area and were not able to make it, or you live in an area that they are not coming to this year, I would like to pass on to one of you some of the swag we got.

I am going to give away: 1 recipe booklet (includes a King Arthur Flour coupon on the back), 1 bowl scraper and 1 $10 gift card toward a $20 purchase (to be used in the next 90 days at the King Arthur Flour online store).


How to enter this giveaway:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post (including an email address where you can be reached) telling me what you might buy with the gift card.

That’s it. I’m not doing extra entries with this one.

The giveaway will end on Tuesday (12/7/10) at 10 pm at which time comments will close.

I will announce a winner on Wednesday morning (12/8/10) after my kids are able to use the “oh-so-scientific-method” of drawing a name from a hat.

Good luck and happy baking!

P.S. If you live in the Fort Worth area, there is one more day of baking demonstrations today (12/2/10) at noon and 6 pm :
Radisson Hotel Fort Worth Fossil Creek
2540 Meacham Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76106