Monday, February 19, 2007

Plain Old Bread

1 Tbsp. (1 packet) active-dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
6-7 cups unbleached white flour

Most recipes want you to use the whole envelope of yeast. This means the first rising will take only about an hour and the second maybe forty-five minutes to an hour - particularly if you put it in a warm place, which is what they usually suggest. Some go as far as telling you to put the dough in a gas oven warmed by a pilot light.

That works fine. If that's the kind of bread you want. Grocery-store bread. Wonder bread. Remember that? The stuff we ate when we were kids. It was white - a brilliantly unreal white - and it had the feel of a damp sponge. When you took a bite, it left an imprint of your teeth.

So, the first thing I do is cut the yeast in half. You don't want the dough to set a new land-speed record. What you want is a
long, slow rise to build the kind of texture and flavor that makes people think you paid $5.95 for this loaf at the European Gourmet Bakery.

Combine the yeast with the water in a large crockery bowl, stir in the sugar, and let it sit for a few minutes while measuring the flour into another bowl.

Stir in flour. When it clumps together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl turn it out on the counter and knead for ten minutes, adding enough flour to keep it moving. Then knead in the salt. Dead last. Because salt strengthens the gluten and makes the dough fight you.

When it's smooth and elastic enough to spring back when poked, oil a big bowl, slosh the dough around in it, making sure the entire surface is oiled. Cover with a damp towel. Set as far from the stove as possible (a wine cellar would be nice).

With half the yeast, it'll take twice as long to rise.

Shape into two loaves.
Give them a two-hour rise.
Spritz them with water for a crackly crust.

Bake at 425 for thirty minutes.


These directions are quoted directly from the novel Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks. When I first read the recipe, I was confused about the amount of yeast and made it with 1/2 Tbsp. as instructed (but that's not the amount in the ingredient list!). The second time I tried the recipe, I used 1 Tbsp. The first loaves were quite dense compared to the second batch, which were light and airy. Both were delicious, so I guess it's a matter of preference.

Hendricks doesn't mention anything about punching the dough down after the first rise, which I decided to do anyway. I also briefly kneaded the dough, then cut it in two with a sharp knife, then shaped it into two long rectangles, turning and pinching a seam along the bottom of each loaf before placing them in metal bread pans. (I've been told glass is good so you can keep an eye on the browning of the bottom of the loaf).

I was worried about the high temperature and decided to check some other bread recipes to see what they recommended. I went with 350 the first time around and 400 the second time I made the bread. I recommend 400 for 30-40 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Judith Ryan Hendricks' Bread Alone.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Island Pork Tenderloin

2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 pork tenderloin (2 1/4 - 2 1/2 lb. total)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. Tabasco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. Coat pork with spice rub.

Heat olive oil in an oven proof 12" skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke. Brown pork on all sides, about 4 minutes total. Remove from heat and leave pork in skillet. Note: If using a regular skillet, transfer meat to oven proof baking dish after browning.

Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco. Pat on top of each tenderloin.

Roast meat in middle of oven until meat thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes.

When finished roasting, remove from oven and allow meat to stand in skillet at room temperature for 10 more minutes (internal temperature should rise to about 155 while resting).


Original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of chili powder, not 1/2.

I prefer to roast the pork to 150-155 degrees and allow it to rest (loosely covered with foil) for the recommended 10 minutes.

Excellent served with saffron rice or rice pilaf with toasted almonds.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetite

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Turkey Soup

10 cups turkey stock
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Turkey meat, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
4 oz. egg noodles
salt & pepper to taste

Bring stock to boil, taste for strength - if weak, boil down.

In large frying pan, sauté onion, celery and carrots in oil and butter until just tender.

While vegetables are cooking, add remaining ingredients to stock. When noodles are done, add vegetables and serve immediately.

Notes: I substituted cooked rice for the egg noodles. Delicious!

Recipe adapted from Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons

Labels: ,

Turkey Stock

1 turkey carcass (recipe based on a 22 lb. bird)
2 carrots
1 onion
2 stalks celery
Handful of parsley
A few peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves

Pick all the meat off the carcass and reserve. Put the carcass in a big pot and add carrots, onion, celery, and parsley - all unpeeled, but washed and coarsely chopped.

Add peppercorns and bay leaves. Add water to cover.

Bring to boil, then cover and simmer 6-10 hours.

Strain, refrigerate overnight, uncovered.

Remove fat from top of stock.

Recipe from Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 05, 2007

Gulf Shrimp Stew

4-6 strips of bacon
4-6 links of Sweet Italian sausage, cut into large chunks (or Polish Keilbasa)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
4 cups chopped Roma or plum tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds) or drained and chopped canned tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth (low-sodium)
1-2 bay leaves
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 ½ - 2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley and green scallions, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving

Cook the bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet.

Cook cut up Italian Sausage/Polish Keilbasa in same pan. Drain on paper towels and pour off all fat except 1 Tablespoon.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and return to medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, cayenne, ground pepper, Worcestershire and thyme.

Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, until nicely thickened, about 25 minutes. (If it’s too soupy, uncover and allow it to cook a few minutes longer to reduce).

Stir in shrimp and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring often, until the shrimp are firm, 3-5 minutes. Add sausage and crumble the reserved bacon, adding to the mixture.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and green onions.

Serve hot over rice. Crunchy French bread and butter on the side. YUM!


I cook the entire recipe (bacon and sausage, as well) in a large Dutch oven.

Don't chop the celery too small or it won't stay crisp. I only use 1 stalk. 3 seems a bit much.

The original recipe was a bit bland, so I added the cayenne pepper to the list of ingredients. Much better! The amount can certainly be increased. I only use 1/8 of teaspoon since we don't like our food too spicy.

Recipe adapted from Art Smith's Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family cookbook.

Labels: , ,

Milk Chocolate Bar Cake

1 package Swiss chocolate cake mix
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
10 (1.5-ounce) milk chocolate candy bars with almonds, divided
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Pour into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until a wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until mixture is creamy.

Chop 8 candy bars finely. Fold cream cheese mixture and chopped candy into whipped topping.

Spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake. Chop remaining 2 candy bars. Sprinkle half of chopped candy bars over cake. Press remaining chopped candy along bottom edge of cake.

Yield: 1 (3-layer) cake
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes

Note: I have used Devil's Food cake mix, as well as Swiss. Both are delicious. I usually just make a 2-layer cake and wind up with left-over icing. This is quite sweet, but yummy!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pork Chops with Thyme Gravy

4 (1/2-inch thick) boneless pork loin chops, trimmed
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 beef bouillon cube
1 cup hot water
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

Season chops with salt and pepper. Brown in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning once. Place in a lightly greased 13x9-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle each chop with thyme and dot with butter.

Dissolve bouillon cube in 1 cup hot water; pour around chops. Bake, covered with foil, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove pork chops to plate (cover and keep warm). Pour drippings from casserole dish into skillet used to brown chops.

Whisk together flour and 1/2 cup water until smooth; whisk into drippings, and cook, whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Thin with additional water, if necessary.

Serve gravy with pork chops, and garnish, if desired.

Serves 4

Note: I don't use boneless; bone-in have more flavor.

Delicious with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Labels: , ,