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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.

Jessica’s Rustic Apple Pie

Posted on

Rustic apple pie.

What makes something “rustic?” Is it unfinished looking? Usually. That’s the case with this apple pie. There are no crimped edges, no perfectly pressed crust. There’s not even a stitch of butter in the crust, which is normally a no-no for me [Jessica]. This pie takes about 15 minutes to throw together, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Maddy Lu has an eye for the “rustic” in dessert. It might not be pretty, but I bet it’s one of the best things you’ve ever eaten! Here is my recipe for rustic apple pie. I highly recommend it… and your husband will thank you when he walks in from work and smells the cinnamon. Maybe a back rub is in order?

Preheat Oven to 375…

Ingredients:

FILLING

  • 8 Medium Sized Apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • A generous sprinkling of cinnamon
  • 3 TBS Flour

CRUST

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. To begin, slice and core your apples. This is the time when an apple peeler/corer comes in handy.
  2. Melt a stick of butter on medium heat, once melted, add the flour.
  3. Add the white/brown sugars and the cinnamon.
  4. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. That’s it.
  5. Get that crust prepared- using a pastry cutter or a big fork, cut the flour/salt into the shortening.  Mix in the water with your hands until the dough comes together.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface- you want a big huge pancake.
  7. Lift the dough onto your baking sheet, and dump the apples into the center.
  8. Pull up the edges so they come in about halfway towards the center.
  9. Bake on center rack at 375 or until you can see the apples are bubbling and the crust is browned.

In a Sequined Christmas Blouse

We took down our trees today. I know it’s a bit late, but we were waiting for snow. The snow came down early this morning…

and the trees followed.

While we tried to not be nostalgic, I couldn’t help but think of the season when the most delightful part of each day will be choosing from the manor’s menu–boiled ham sandwich or beef goulash.

The holidays will arrive and my children will draw from a hat to see who will feed me and the unlucky grand-kids will cry, “Do we have to?!”

I will sit in the manor lobby in my sequined Christmas blouse and wait. I imagine I’ll wait for at least forty-five minutes before I see an angry-looking relative.

All year long I’ve been looking forward to a festive dinner and I’m given an hour or so to choke down my rations while no one even attempts to talk to me. I don’t even get a peek at the Christmas tree.

I’m back in my room again before I know it and it’s time to choose breakfast–honey bun or runny eggs. Neither. Thanks.

To lighten the mood, I went with something terribly easy for someone in such a mental state–chocolate chip bars. And chocolate can be so comforting.

The recipe comes from Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book. These chocolate chip bars are just right.

Jim Fobel’s Chocolate Chip Bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour                                            1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                                 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened                     6 ounces of chocolate chips

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour an 11 3/4-by-7 1/2-inch pan.

2. Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. Beat together the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

4. Combine the wet with the dry and fold in the chips and nuts ( I omitted the nuts).

5. Spoon the mix in to the pan and spread it out evenly.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (I baked for 18).

7. Place the hot pan on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

8. Cut the bars and eat them.

Happy Winter. Enjoy the soft centers and the chewy edges.

Caramel and Crumbs

Soft bites and chewy edging. Perfection. Butter meets caramel meets powdery crumb topping. The flavor expanded and spread over every taste bud and then I was hit, mentally, by a shot of satisfaction and I smiled.

I meant to save some of these edges for Josh. I’m not sure what happened.

Rewind, rewind, rewind.

She’s gotten too smart for me. No more holding my breath while putting her down for a nap, to exhale upon my feet hitting the cold kitchen floor. After she graduated from naps, I used to try to bake while she painted or set up her princess figurines, but she couldn’t go at it for very long before needing me to squirt more paint or change Tiana’s dress.

(I did let her refill her palate once. Notice I said once.)

I would level off a measuring cup or separate an egg, run to Sophie, change the dress, run back and before I could find my place in the recipe, I would be summoned once again.

No good.

I gave it up. But I found that I couldn’t give up on baking. So we work together. Note the shower caps. She likes us to wear “hats.” Oh and don’t note the dishes. I did get to those. Eventually.

I wear the orange apron and she wears the green one. I weigh and measure the ingredients and she throws them in. We may lose a touch of flour this way, but mother and daughter are not losing their minds. If the recipe is complicated, she runs off after a few steps and I finish up on my own. We’re both happy with this set-up. I get to bake and she gets to make. Yes, I said make. “Can I make with you?” Sophie asks. And she’s right. It’s never just baking or cooking, It’s a lot more.

Today we made Caramel Crumb Bars from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker. This book is just right. I love what it features—pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, bars, pastry, and even savory tarts, pies, and breads. The photography is complimentary and I have faith that each recipe will give me a delightful product.

I chose this recipe because 1) I have the ingredients and 2) I was able to make it with a three year old. (Don’t attempt puff pastry with a toddler as your sous chef.)

We were happy with the results. And the recipe was fairly simple. And I like the idea of cookie bars. They’re rustic and pleasing and almost always appropriate. And a baker can be somewhat experimental with bars. Experimenting with different nuts and fillings and crumbs and toppings can be exhilarating. Trust me.

Caramel Crumb Bars

Dough

2 sticks of butter    1/2 cup sugar    1/4 teaspoon salt    1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter    1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/4 cup dark brown sugar    1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

Directions

1. Butter and line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan with buttered parchment paper.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.

3. Beat the butter with the sugar and salt at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4. Beat in 2 1/4 cup flour at the lowest speed. Scrape down the bowl a few times in the process.

5. Take 1/4 of the dough and press it into the pan. Chill the pan.

6. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour into the rest of the dough and make crumbs by rubbing the dough with the flour between your fingers.

7. Make the filling by simmering the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Stir often and cook for about 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a stainless-steel bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling on top, spreading it evenly with a small spatula. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top.

9. Bake for about 30 minutes.

10. Place the pan on a rack and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Cut it into bars before it cools completely.

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?

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

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.