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Liverpool Leading Lady

I’m not as English as I once thought.

My father and I were talking about having corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patrick’s Day and I said that it would be worth the effort, “Even though there’s not an ounce of Irish blood in us,” to which my father replied, “I’m half Irish.”

Oh. Really?

Well, then we certainly should have some corned beef and cabbage and throw in a loaf Irish soda bread while we’re at it.

Now, I was perfectly justified in thinking that I was English. My great-grandparent and company were all born in Liverpool. Well, there’s a story behind that.

It just so happens that I am not the first actress in my family. My grandmother Kathleen was certainly one of the most dramatic people I knew, but her grandmother certainly takes the gold.

For many, many years being Irish was not nearly as grand as being English and my great-great grandmother thought she could do something about that. When the time came to give birth to each baby in her brood, she would go to Liverpool, have her child, and then go back to her homestead in Ireland. Doing this made her English (In her mind, of course). She did the baby act a few times and it was not easy, but the performance must have been worth it.

So, in honor of her and her wild antics, I adapted Nick Malgieri’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Don that green apron of yours and bake some up this weekend.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Makes 12 standard muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour     1 ½ teaspoons baking powder    ½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted    ¼ cup sugar    1 large egg    1 ¼ cups buttermilk

¾ cup raisins, currants, or cranberries tossed with 1 tablespoon flour

confectioner’s sugar    vanilla extract    half-n-half

  1. Set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 F.
  2. Line your muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the egg and ½ of the buttermilk. Gently stir in ½ of the flour mixture and then add the remaining buttermilk.
  5. Stir in the dried fruit and then the rest of the flour mixture.
  6. Spoon the batter in to the muffin cups and bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins have a touch of gold and are firm to the touch.
  7. Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Mix together a cup of confectioner’s sugar, two tablespoons of half-n-half, and one tablespoon of vanilla. Add liquid or sugar until you get a nice consistency. Drip the icing over cooled muffins and allow the icing to harden. The muffins should look glazed.

Crafting a Carb

What’s the point?

Hm.

Maybe that’s not the question to ask.

All I know that it was quite thrilling to find that I could indeed make my own bagels. I know that bagels are not that hard to come by and they really don’t have the greatest reputation after the whole Atkins movement, but perhaps that’s what compelled me.

Let me bake something that I can get at any grocery store or deli, that isn’t chocolate, and doesn’t have sprinkles on it. Oh and something that’s controversial.

Does Dr. Atkins feel any remorse?

I won’t play judge, but I will tell you that homemade bagels are not too hard to make and they are rather tasty. Can anyone honestly say that they do not like the taste of a warm, toasted bagel?

Didn’t think so.

So, here we have it. The bagels:

(You can’t tell this just by reading, but I couldn’t find my camera to upload the pictures, so I went down to the basement freezer for some Rocky Road biscotti. I did find the camera, obviously and I do think that eating the biscotti had something to do with it. It must have been the chocolate. Mmmm. They are incredibly good straight from the freezer. Was I supposed to save them for something?)

The recipe I used comes from (drum-roll…) How to Bake by Nick Malgieri. I can’t begin to explain what this one little (big, really) book has done to me. I have yet to find a disappointing recipe.

I hope Nick’s alright with me sharing his findings.

Nick’s Bagels

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast     1 1/2 cups warm tap water

5 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour     3 tablespoons sugar     2 teaspoons salt

Egg wash: 1 egg white well beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Optional toppings: sesame seeds, coarse salt, poppy seeds, chopped dried garlic, etc.

Makes 10 to 12 bagels.

1. Whisk the yeast into warm water and set aside.

2. Combine 5 cups of flour, the sugar and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix. Add the yeast mixture and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then run the machine for 30 seconds. Knead in the remaining flour by hand.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough over a few times to coat the surfaces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest until it has doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Bring a 5-quart saucepan of water to a simmer.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into ten or twelve equal pieces and then roll each piece into a 10-inch cylinder. Keep a piece of plastic wrap over the rest of the dough while you work to prevent it from drying out. Moisten the ends of each cylinder with water and then press the ends together to make a circle.

6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

7. Lower 2 bagels at time into the simmering water and cook for a minute, turning each bagel over once during this time. Remove the bagels and place on a rack. Once the bagels are dry, brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with toppings.

8. Place on a baking sheet lined with oiled foil. Bake the bagels for about 30 minutes.

9. Transfer to cooling racks.

Enjoy these bagels fresh or freshly toasted with a smear of cream cheese or butter. They’re good with anything on them really. BLT bagel, anyone?

Have This On Hand and A Pie Story

From a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and peanut butter filling to vanilla sheet cakes to pies, pies, pies.

And pies.

Oh, but I love it.

Pies are truly wonderful and I hope you get your fill (is that possible?) tomorrow. There are so many possibilities with pies, but what makes a pie fantastic is that it is both sweet and savory, no matter what the flavor. Think of your typical apple pie—sweet, chunky, spicy, fruity filling with a rich, buttery, flaky crust.

This is food perfection. Eat it any time and all of the time. And the chicken pie—protein and vegetable goodness in a crust that makes you feel loved. What more could you want?

My little man couldn’t agree more. Mommy and Baby can often be found devouring a pumpkin pie by the light of the open refrigerator.

With the holidays here, pies are necessary and excellent any time of day. There is nothing like a leftover piece of pie first thing in the morning. Or a forkful before a run.

It makes me go faster.

But you may want other breakfast possibilities. I’ve made a routine of making pan bread every other day. We usually work through a loaf in a day and I have another waiting in the freezer. I tried out Nick Malgieri’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread. A toasted slice with my morning latte was quite nice. It’s not a sweet bread, mind you. It’s a nice toasting bread and the cinnamon swirl dresses it up a bit for this time of year.

Cinnamon Swirl Pan Bread

*Adapted from How to Bake by Nick Malgieri.

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 cups warm tap water

5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute some whole wheat flour for all-purpose)

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

5 tablespoons vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins

1. Oil two loaf pans.

2. Whisk the yeast into the water and set aside.

3. Place 5 cups of flour in a mixer with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, honey,  and oil or butter and mix on low with a dough hook for 5 minutes. If the dough is really sticky, you can add some flour one tablespoon at a time.

4. Oil a bowl and place the dough inside, turning it over once to oil it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to double. This takes a little over an hour.

5. Mix together 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons of melted, unsalted butter. Set this aside.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Deflate the dough and divide it in half. Make a clump into a rectangle. Spread half of the cinnamon mixture over the rectangle and sprinkle it with about 1/4 cup of raisins, fold in the short sides and then the long, making a cylinder. Put it in the pan seam side down. Do the same with the other clump. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let the loaves rise for about an hour.

5. When the loaves are about ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

7. Unmold and set on racks to cool.

This bread is great warm. Have a loaf today and freeze a loaf for tomorrow. You could also make some wildly good French toast with this stuff.

Thanks Nick!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Heat ‘N Serve No More

I’ve converted. Once upon a time I found nothing wrong with the “heat ‘n serve” dinner roll. I even fought on behalf of it.

There was one year my sister was hosting Thanksgiving dinner and decided to streamline the menu, cutting out those unusually white rolls. At the time, this seemed like an injustice to me. What will we use to dip into our mashed potatoes and swirl through the gravy?

Excellent argument. Somehow I won.

Then I had to force myself to eat part of one of those necessary rolls.

Now, I can say goodbye to heat ‘n serve. I made my own rolls. And oh, if you could smell these.

Once again I have Nick Malgieri to thank for making my day. He has the gift for fashioning breads with intense flavor. And I was fortunate enough to come across his book How to Bake.

Maddy continues her year of the bread with dinner/breakfast/lunch rolls. Oh they are anytime rolls.

Below is an adaptation of Nick’s recipe. Try it out or give me a ring and I will try it out for you.

Wheat Rolls

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour    1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey    1 tablespoon salt

1 cup warm tap water (about 110 degrees)    2 teaspoons active dry yeast    2 large eggs

4 tablespoons butter, melted    Egg wash: 1 beaten egg with a pinch of salt

1. Cover cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand-mixer, with the dough hook attached, (you can do this by hand, too) combine the dry ingredients. Let the mixer run on low for 1 minute.

3. Add the water, yeast, eggs, nectar or honey, and butter and continue to let it mix for a minute.

4. Oil a mixing bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl to coat all of the sides of the dough with the oil. Cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pressed it down to let the air out. Divide the dough in half and then slice each half into 8 pieces to get 16 pieces in total.

6. With the palm of your hand, roll each piece into a small mound. Try to create a smooth surface on each piece. If you’d like to seed or salt your rolls, do that now.

7. Place the rolls on the prepared pans and cover with oiled plastic wrap and a towel. Allow the rolls to rest for about an hour.

8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

9. Bake the rolls at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. The internal temperature of the rolls should be 210.

Enjoy the rolls warm. The rolls keep well for about 24 hours. After that, you can freeze the rolls and defrost as needed.

Delicious.

Does anyone need pies for Thanksgiving? MaddyLu’s Bakery is now taking orders for the big day. Check out our Facebook page for more information.  http://www.facebook.com/MaddyLus

Caramels and Contractions

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It was a November night a lot like this one, but rewind about 365 days. I had already bleached the bathroom three times that week, folded baby boy Onesies, re-folded baby boy Onesies, and packed my bags. Twice. I (Jessica) stood over the sink and made my decision— tonight, it would be the caramel apples.
And so the hunt began. Our initial obstacle was the caramels. At the first three stops we came up with nothing. I begged Andrew to check just one more place. I NEEDED to make these apples tonight. The baby would be here in just a few days and I wanted to have them as gifts to give family and friends who helped us watch the dog during our hospital stay. Well, we found the caramels, headed home, and I stood over the stove and rubbed my hands together. I was ready to begin.
And then— it began. Just… not what I was expecting to begin. Everything started as a twinge. And then a cramp. And then one more. And then I was sitting on the floor. And then five minutes went by and I was sitting on the floor again. I kept pressing on towards the goal. I had to finish these apples. Had to top them with nuts. Had to drizzle the chocolate. Had to shove sticks in their tops.
Andrew watched me like I was crazy. He was the crazy one—he had his watch and was timing my every contraction. He just swore they were getting closer together and begged me to call the doctor. I didn’t want to overreact, but his pleas got the best of me. We called, I went, a few hours later labor stopped, and we came back home.
Long story short, Isaiah was born sometime the next day.  But caramel apples remind me of that special time, especially since I lived off of the leftovers during his first weeks.
We had a caramel apple special last week. We got so much support—thank you. And to those of you who didn’t order an apple, maybe this post will make you jealous enough to order one next time around. Enjoy the pictures.

Really?

What’s this? Gingerbread was an early baby food? That’s what I’ve read. I would cite my sources, but I’d rather be lazy now.

Just don’t tell my students.

But yes, gingerbread was given to German babies. The mothers would let it harden and then crush it into a powder and add the powder to milk or water.

How fantastic. Gingerbread does seem awfully wholesome to me—even medicinal. And what happy babies!

After I read about the gingerbread powder, I pinched off a hearty portion to accompany my morning coffee and my baby boy happily received any bits his papa had to offer.

And you can have some of this excellent stuff if you do one of two things:

1. Order it from Maddy Lu’s.

2. Follow the following recipe and bake your own.

The choice is yours. Make a good one.

This gingerbread comes from the fabulous Lynne Rossetto Kasper. She, along-with Sally Swift, includes this recipe in their book The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper.

Dark and Moist Gingerbread

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 generous teaspoon baking soda    1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves   1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted    3/4 cup mild or dark molasses

3/4 cup very hot water (190F)   1/3 tight-packed cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1. Preheat the oven top 350 F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.

3. Beat together the butter, molasses, hot water, and brown sugar. When the mixture is almost frothy, beat in the egg and gradually add the flour blend. Stir until blended.

4. Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. For a moist cake, cool in the pan on a rack. For a drier cake, cool for 10 in the pan and then turn it out of the pan and cool on a rack.

Serve this with a puff of whipped cream and  a dab of lemon curd.

Brown-Bier-Weizen-Brot

Butter melting in the skillet, beautiful baby white potatoes ready to dip in, crusty bread, red wine. Ah.

Josh and Sophie are playing “Catch Me” in the yard.

I was almost caught while sneaking out to gather some herbs.

And so the year of the bread continues with a loaf with roots–my  German roots. German food is good any time of year but the fall calls for pale boiled potatoes, luscious meats, pungent cheeses, good beer, and equally good bread.

I found a fantastic recipe for brown beer bread in an old Cooking Light magazine that a friend brought over. If you could have tasted the air in my kitchen while I was putting this bread together…oh my. Josh walked in while I was punching down the dough and commented on how much it smelled like Würzburg. I agreed.

Josh and I spent a bit of time in Germany over the Christmas holiday one year.

We had a ticket in to Frankfurt and a ticket out of Nuremberg. That was it. No reservations, no plans, nothing. It was up to us to make our way across the bottom of Germany. Without knowing German.

Oh but Germany during the holidays was enchanting and Würzburg was possibly one of the loveliest places of all.

We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast that had a dining room which served supper and was open to the public. And the German public came.

While we traveled, we had a rule: speak as little as possible. (We learned as much of the native language as we could, but knew our accents would give us away.) This worked quite well, except for when it came to ordering off menus. Waiters always discovered our secret.

At the inn in Würzburg, the waiter pretty much chose our meals for us and what a fine job he did. The brown beer bread recipe brings many of those flavors I experienced while in Germany together in one hearty loaf. I hope you get the chance to make this bread. If not, you’ll just have to book a flight to Schönes Deutschland.

Brown Beer Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon olive oil     1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/8 teaspoons sugar, divided   2 packages dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)

3/4 cup warm brown beer (100 to 110 degrees)    1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon white vinegar     1 1/2 teaspoon salt     1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided     1 cup whole wheat flour (or rye)

cooking spray     1 teaspoon water     1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté 4 minutes until golden brown. Set onions aside to cool.

2. Warm beer (I used the microwave). Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon sugar and the yeast in the beer. Let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Stir yogurt,vinegar, and salt into the beer mixture. Add remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and egg. Stir with a whisk. If you would like to make a rye bread, this is when you would add 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds.

4. Add 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour to the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Stir in the onions.

5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding enough of the remaining flour to keep the dough from being too sticky to handle. Add 1 tablespoon at a time.

6. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in the bowl and turn once over to coat the loaf with the oil.

7. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise it in a warm place, free from drafts for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

8. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes.

9. Shape the dough into a 12-inch oval loaf and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise for another 30 minutes or until it has doubled again.

10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

11. Combine 1 teaspoon water and the egg white in a small bowl. Brush the egg mixture over the loaf.

12. Bake the loaf for 28 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when you give it a tap.

13. Cool on a wire rack.

*Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2006.