Category Archives: bread

How Jewish tastes

GF everything matzo 1

Making matzo at home brings with it an unusual challenge: because the goal of eating matzo is to remember the sacrifices our forebears made, it’s not really supposed to be enjoyable. Store-bought matzo, if made appropriately, should leave one with the approximate sensation of having eaten crisp cardboard made out of dust. It’s shattery. It’s white. And it’s very, very plain.

The problem is, I usually avoid boxed matzo. I don’t steer clear because of the taste. I skip it because it’s just the type of white-flour product—plain, slightly sweet, and likely quite processed—that makes me feel crummy. Gluten-free matzo are commercially available, but they’re heinously expensive. And unlike regular boxed matzo, which often come in various flavors, gluten-free matzo are (in stores near me) always naked.

I lined up my matzo musts: First, I wanted my crackers to taste like an everything bagel, with a smattering of seeds. Second, I wanted to avoid grains, lest someone question my devotion to Ashkenazi Judaism (to which I am not even slightly devoted), practitioners of which typically avoid all grains during the holiday. Third, the matzo had to be disappointing in some way. There’s no point in making a cracker that doesn’t taste like suffering if you’re going to eat it for a week straight while pretending to suffer. I couldn’t call it matzo if it didn’t leave me needing a glass of wine, or at the very least, water.

“This can’t be called matzo,” said J, a high school friend who’s recently moved to Seattle. “It tastes too good.” She was munching on a cracker I’d made from a mixture of almond, coconut, and garbanzo bean flours—a mixture sprinkled with poppy, sesame, and caraway seed, crunchy sea salt, and dried onion flakes, then baked until the edges curled up. We dipped the crackers in hummus, pondered, and ate more.

“I’m no expert, but there is no way these are matzo,” she repeated. She was right. I wasn’t feeling even the least bit guilty about having a nice life, or peaceful surroundings, or leavened bread–not to mention making a cracker that took longer than the “official” limit of 18 minutes to make. I was feeling guilty about planning to not eat the same terrible cardboard everyone else planned on eating.

“They’re a cross between socca and a graham cracker,” declared Jim. And he was right. We actually enjoyed them.

The next day in the car, I started preparing Graham for what will probably be the first Passover dinner he will actually understand. I talked about how Jewish people take the holiday as a moment to slow down and appreciate what they have. About how we eat certain foods to celebrate the season, and how we always leave the door open, in part to welcome in anyone who might stop by with a hungry stomach.

“Mom, what does ‘Jewish’ mean?” he asked.

Right. I’d forgotten the basics. I’m a secular Jew: I’m Jewish by tradition and by generational duty, but not by proactive practice. We don’t talk very much about religion in our house.

“Jewish means something different to everyone,” I said carefully. I went on to give a very brief, very bad explanation of how religions differ, and how everyone needs to find out for themselves what practice works best for them, if any. Our conversation fizzled, and I cursed myself for being so unprepared.

Then, when we got home, I got an idea.

“Here,” I said. I handed him a matzo. “This is what Jewish tastes like to me.”

He refused to taste it. And in that moment—feeling guilty for giving the matzo too much flavor, and for failing to teach my son about my family’s past practices, and for realizing he had zero concept of what was going to happen later in the week at Passover dinner—I realized I could call it matzo. I’d suffered enough.

Eat it smeared with additional guilt.

photo 3

Gluten-Free Everything Matzo Crackers (PDF)
Gluten-Free Everything Matzo Crackers

Made with a combination of garbanzo, almond, and coconut flours, these crackers have a texture slightly crisper than graham crackers, with a much more savory flavor. Topped with a smattering of the seeds you might find on an everything bagel—plus caraway, a favorite of mine—they make a good substitute for any cracker you’d use for hummus, cheese, or tuna salad. Put them on the Passover plate, if you feel like it—but be warned that they’re more flavorful than traditional matzo!

Look for minced dried onion in the spice section of your local grocery store.

Time: 35 minutes active time
Makes about 6 servings

2 teaspoons poppy seed
2 teaspoons white sesame seed
2 teaspoons dried caraway seed, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons minced dried onion
1 1/2 teaspoons crunchy sea salt, crushed til fine if large
1 cup (100 grams) potato starch
1/2 cup (60 grams) coconut flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) almond flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) garbanzo bean flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup warm water
2 large eggs, blended

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and space two racks evenly in the oven. Cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit the flat parts of two large (such as 12-by-17-inch) baking sheets. (You’ll roll the cracker dough out between the two pieces of parchment, so they need to be the same size. If you don’t have two baking sheets of the same size, just pick one, cut out two pieces of parchment to fit it, and bake the crackers in two batches.)

In a small bowl, blend the poppy, sesame, and caraway seed with the onion and sea salt with a spoon until well mixed. Set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the potato starch, coconut flour, almond flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt just to blend. With the machine on low speed, add the oil, water, and egg. Increase speed to medium and blend for one minute, until crumbly. The mixture should clump together when you press a handful between your palm and fingers.

photo 1

Pat the dough into a ball, then split it roughly in half. Place one of the parchment sheets on a clean work surface, then add half the dough. Top with the other sheet of parchment and roll the dough as thin as possible without breaking it; it should almost reach the edges of the parchment. (The goal is to make one giant cracker about the size of a baking sheet with each half of the dough.)

Brush one baking sheet with olive oil. Peel the top sheet of parchment off the rolled-out dough, then carefully invert the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, paper side up. Peel off the remaining piece of paper, and brush the dough with more olive oil.

Repeat the process with the remaining dough, using the same parchment paper. Scatter the spice mixture over both pieces of oiled dough, then pat the spices in with your hands so they stick. (If you’d like a more matzo-like look, use a fork or a rolling docking tool to poke small holes all over the dough.)

Bake the matzo for 5 minutes. Rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom, and bake another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the matzo is well browned on all edges and begins to curl up and off the pan. Transfer the crackers immediately to cooling racks and let cool for at least 30 minutes before breaking into pieces and serving.

Store any unused crackers in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

If you’ve followed the Uncle Josh Haggadah Project over the last five years, never fear, there is a 2015 edition. This year, it focuses on Montana, and was written in conjunction with our sister. Click here for the PDF of the 2015 Haggadah.

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Filed under bread, commentary, Lunch, snack

How it ends


About a year ago, well before 7 a.m., I woke to the telltale click of the screen door being closed extremely carefully. We have a slammer of a screen that doesn’t fit its home squarely; the silent slam is a trick only the most well practiced guest can perform. I scrambled up the stairs, more curious than afraid. Half a pink salmon sat in a plastic shopping bag on the shoe bench just inside the door, right next to my XtraTufs. I picked it up, knowing one of our builders, Richie, had left it there for me. His wife had planned to fish that morning, and he knew I was jealous. “Hope you can use this,” said his note. I could still feel the warmth of his skin on the handles of the bag.

At the time, I was testing recipes for A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories. Renee Erickson and Jim Henkens and I been tinkering with the smoked salmon recipe, and as I tested and retested, I relied on the builders to be occasional judges—of that salmon, and of the French-style apple cake, and of the braised pork shoulder I served to six or seven of the guys in that last week of remodeling. That final meal was a sort of congratulatory lunch that doubled, for me, as a way of testing a huge handful of recipes in one day and serving the food to a crowd piping hot at midday so it didn’t sag on the counter until dinnertime.

I’m not sure they realized then how closely I watched their faces as they ate, and how much I appreciated that salmon, and another guy’s homemade bacon, and that they somehow kept the water on at all the right times as they intentionally shattered and rebuilt the basement and all of its associated plumbing.

banana bread sliced

My hope, at the beginning, was to leave the builder a book and some banana bread as thanks. When the bananas had wilted sufficiently on the counter, I tweaked the book’s zucchini bread recipe to incorporate them. The zucchini bread, as it stands, is perfect. (I can brag like that because it’s not my own recipe: It’s perfect, people.) I like it for its spice, and for its fine texture, and for the fact that it uses olive oil, so you don’t have to wait for the butter to soften. But if you’re going to make a perfect banana bread out of a recipe for perfect zucchini bread, a few things about it need to change—the substitution of bananas for zucchini, for example. I gave it a bit more backbone with bread flour, omitted the lemon zest, and tinkered with the top. Ultimately, though, it’s just the same bread, all dressed up for fall. (Honestly, with the exception of my cousin’s killer homemade sugar pumpkin pie, I’ll take a pumpkin-seeded banana bread over pumpkin pie any day.)

It baked up big and beautiful, just like it does at The Whale Wins, so that when you cut it into slabs, it eats more like cake than like a breakfast bread. I carefully sliced part of it for us to keep for snacking, and wrapped the rest in foil for the contractor.

signed book 2

When I signed the book for the contractor to pick up and share with Richie, I suddenly felt like the process of writing this particular book came full circle. Perhaps strangely, it’s often not the book’s release or its appearance on store shelves that makes me feel like a project has grown proper wings. For me, a book’s real launch happens when I thank the people who helped me get ‘er done. When I mail a huge stack of books media rate to the book’s recipe testers, and send copies to my siblings, and bring what I’m starting to call The Big Blue to the coffee shop that offered me a seat for at least three quarters of the project’s writing. The book’s circle will close next week in New York, when I’ll give my last book to a tester coming to the event there on Monday night, and I’ll hug her in person and say thanks for the invisible hours she put into it, too. Only then, to me, will the book be finished.

Yesterday morning, as I twisted the doorknob to put the book and the bread on the bench on the porch, my husband announced that our cantankerous gas stove had shot up a plume of blue large enough to trigger the gates on the emergency stove-buying portion of our bank account. We’ll be getting a new unit (suggestions welcome!), which means we’ll have to saw away the two-inch granite apron securing the existing stove in place, which means we’ll need to call our contractor. I put the banana bread on the dining room table.

“Maybe I’ll just leave him the book,” I told Jim. “Otherwise it would be bribery, right?”

No, it was most certainly not appropriate to leave the contractor a book and banana bread before calling him in again. And, well, clearly I’ll need strength for stove shopping.


Pumpkin-Seeded Banana Bread (PDF)

In the world of zucchini breads, Renee Erickson’s rules all. This banana bread, made by adapting the zucchini bread from The Whale Wins that appears in A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories, has the same sweet, spiced background that makes the zucchini bread so addictive—plus a crunchy layer of shelled pumpkin seeds that, for me, act as a harbinger of deep fall. Note that at The Whale Wins, the zucchini bread is pan-roasted in butter and served with crème fraîche and sea salt. That’s not going to hurt this banana bread, either.

Use a good extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe; you’ll taste it in the final product.

Active time: 30 minutes
Makes one 9- by 5-inch loaf

Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups (about 256 grams) bread flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 very ripe bananas
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt, and set aside.

In another bowl, mash the bananas with a large fork until only pea-sized pieces of fruit remain. Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla. Add the olive oil in three stages, whisking it in until completely incorporated each time.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no white spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly first with the demerara sugar, then with the pumpkin seeds. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 80 minutes, or until a skewer inserted between seeds in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (It should rise right to the top of the pan.)

Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely before cutting into fat slabs.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, fruit, recipe

All in the family

Photo by Lara Ferroni

My grandmother clucked and preened her way through Thanksgiving. While we cooked, she wandered from room to room, deftly dodging baby gates with 85-year-old leg lifts and cute little hops. She’d announce that she has the best looking brood of grandchildren, or that her granddaughters are the prettiest bunch ever. At one point I thought she might actually lay an egg. But other than the compliments she paid us, I didn’t really see June over thanksgiving, what with the parenting and cooking nonsense.

If I’d been with friends, I’d feel guilty. I’d feel like I missed something. But here’s what I like about family: I know they’ll be there. I know I’ll see June again soon, and that she’ll still cluck and preen when I’m around, and like a good recipe, there will always be new variations on the same conversations. Our visits happen a bit differently every time.

Here’s a cake that’s family, also. It’s always in my kitchen, constantly changing, but somehow still the same. It started here, with a kabocha squash-based bundt cake that’s been one of the most popular recipes on this site. That version, made with sour cream and maple, is deeply rich, almost a sin to eat in the morning but perfect as an afternoon snack. For Dishing Up Washington, I created a version that’s more fit for the morning, with hearty emmer flour, a lighter buttermilk glaze, and a bare smattering of hazelnuts.

I’m hoping that the next time I head down to see June, I can bring her this. She’s good at having just one more little slice–a habit this cake facilitates by the nature of its curves–so we’ll sit and chat and drink good coffee, and maybe fry up an egg or two. And with any luck, I’ll be doing the same thing in fifty years with someone I’ve never met.

And pssst–if you’re here looking for squash recipes after seeing me on Q13 Fox, here’s the recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple-Cumin Caramel (PDF).

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Kabocha-Buttermilk Bundt Cake (PDF)
Every fall at the University District Farmers Market in Seattle, shoppers ogle the winter squash. Ranging from the expected oranges and yellows to vibrant reds, greens, and even bluish hues, the variety is stunning — but for baking, I go for kabocha squash almost every time. Green or orange skinned, kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. Stirred into a stunning bundt cake made with emmer flour from the Methow Valley, it’s the best way to capture a Washington fall in a cake. Yes, it’s a cake. But it’s best for breakfast.

You can leave the cake simply glazed, or top it with a flurry of toasted hazelnuts or toasted coconut right when the glaze goes on. This cake can also be made ahead, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen up to 1 month. Glaze after defrosting at room temperature.

Special equipment: 12-cup bundt cake pan or 10-inch tube pan
Makes 10–12 servings

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup emmer flour or whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ packed cups mashed kabocha squash (from 1 small squash)
¼ cup chopped toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) or toasted sweetened coconut flakes (optional)

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon buttermilk or water

Note: To roast the squash, slice the squash roughly in half and remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Roast cut side down on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400°F for about 1 hour, or until the skin is easy to poke with a fork. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash it like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you’re afraid of cutting the squash, you can also put the entire thing — stem and all — into the oven, and bake it a bit longer. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff before you mash the flesh. Stir any leftover mashed squash into oatmeal or risotto.

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously (and carefully) butter the bundt cake pan, and set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, emmer flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

3. Whip the butter and granulated sugar together on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use an electric hand mixer) until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing between additions.

4. Stir the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla together in a bowl. With the machine on low, alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures — first some of the flour, then some of the milk, then flour, milk again, and finally flour. When just mixed, add the squash, and mix on low until uniform in color.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan, smooth the top, and bake (I find it easier to transfer if it’s on a baking sheet) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top springs back when touched lightly. Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully invert it onto a serving platter.

6. Make the glaze: When the cake is cool to the touch (after about an hour), whisk the confectioners’ sugar, honey, vanilla, and buttermilk together until smooth, adding water if necessary to make a thick, barely pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze (or pour it right out of the bowl) along the crown of the cake, allowing it to ooze down the inside and outside of the cake. Sprinkle the nuts over the glaze, if desired. Once the glaze has dried, the cake keeps well, covered in plastic wrap at room temperature, for up to 3 days.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, Dishing Up Washington, recipe

Religious Freedom

Sufganiyot with Clove Marmalade

Consistency has never really been my strong point, so it’s not surprising that when I think of December, I think of three very different things. I think of skiing on Christmas day, when the crowds are thin and Santa’s finally been able to bag off work and take a few quick runs. I think of the menorah I must have forgotten to clean last year, like I always do, with a week’s worth of wax crammed into the little candle holes, waiting patiently for an hour of my time and a Swiss Army knife. And I think of my freshman year in college, when my friend Abby gathered a bowl of little Satsuma oranges, studded them with whole cloves, and put them on top of her bureau. I thought she was Martha incarnate; I didn’t grow up with décor. The sweet, spiced smell from that one bowl snuck under her dorm room door, and wafted down the hall, and planted itself deep within my psyche as the smell of Christmas.

Clove-Studded Satsumas

I grew up the blessed child of two religions. You hated me, remember? I was the one who got to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Latkes and Christmas cookies. Eight days plus one.

Only, in reality, we didn’t really celebrate either—not in the way some families do. We swayed to the whims of two calendars, fitting gifts and meals around them, often forgoing one or the other if school events or ski races or a really good snowfall got in the way. And in the kitchen, our holiday rituals were even less dependable.

For Hanukkah, I think there were always latkes. And if we were home for Christmas, my mom would roast beef, and use the drippings for Yorkshire pudding, always marvelously puffy and lopsided, eliciting a seldom-heard insistence on getting to the table now, while it’s hot. But for a long time, instead of gathering my family’s odd holiday habits in a little bouquet of thankfulness, I was embarrassed by them. We were Jewish, but I’d never tasted sufganiyot, the little jelly-filled doughnuts traditionally served during the Hanukkah season. I didn’t know the prayers; I didn’t usually get Chinese food on December 25th. We celebrated Christmas, but we only had stockings every third year, and my mother never labeled the gifts, like I’m sure Abby’s mother did, so there was an equal, if not greater, chance that I’d open my brother’s Game Boy when I was supposed to be cracking into my Caboodles. And we certainly didn’t eat peppermint stick ice cream every Christmas Eve, or leave cookies out for Santa.

Now, though. They tell me I’m an adult. They tell me it’s my turn to pass my own traditions down. A decade ago, I might have said I’d just pick one avenue, one holiday. I’d have said I’d write down a list of Best Traditions, my own personal holiday declaration of independence, and stick to it, making the same foods every year, singing the same songs, smiling the same smiles. Now, though, having the freedom to celebrate however I want to each year, and to always do it differently, seems like the blessing.

A confused household

Now, my two-year-old is old enough to see the Star of David on top of our little Christmas tree, and to look up at me with a jammy grin as we sit on the floor in front of it on the first night of Hanukkah, stuffing our faces with sufganiyot made with leaf lard and filled with Christian-smelling sacrilege. This year, I’ll show him how to stick cloves into little baby oranges, and how to pile latkes with applesauce and sour cream, and how to set out cookies for Santa. (I’ll use Santa’s all-powerful presents as a threat, if I need to.) We’ll make pork-filled tamales on Christmas day, and steam them in the light of seven candles.

When he’s older, I’ll show him how to light the menorah one year, and the next year, we’ll forget where we put it, and stick to Christmas and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. But every year, if we’re lucky, we’ll be with our families, and we’ll share food with friends, and we’ll smell something special—something with orange and cloves and winter.

If we’re lucky.

Sufganiyot with Clove Marmalade

Spiced Buttermilk Sufganiyot with Orange-Clove Marmalade (PDF)
Recipe by Jess Thomson, inspired by Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker (by Mark and Michael Klebeck with Jess Thomson, Chronicle Books, September 2011)

Traditional sufganiyot are fried each year during Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of light, when oil burned for light lasted eight days instead of the expected one. They’re often filled with strawberry or apricot jam, or a mixture of jam and custard. This version strays toward more typically Christmassy flavors, with a bittersweet filling made by spiking marmalade with ground cloves.

If you’re a really bad Jew that likes really good doughnuts, you could use leaf lard in place of the shortening.

Total: 1 hour 5 minutes active time
Makes 16 sufganiyot, or 24 if you reroll the dough
Special equipment: 2-inch round cutter, piping bag with medium round tip

3 tablespoons (four 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk, warmed
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 teaspoons iodized salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups (550 to 620 grams) bread flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
1/4 cup shortening (trans fat-free preferred)
3 large egg yolks
1 gallon canola oil, for frying
2 cups orange marmalade
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar with the buttermilk and water and let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, mace, salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.

Add the shortening and egg yolks to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute, to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.

Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no dry spots remain, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is dry enough to clean the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a bit tacky.)

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 tablespoon flour, shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter, dust lightly with flour, cover with a dish towel, and set aside.

Create a proofing box in your oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour about 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking dish, and set it on the floor of your oven. Place the sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the doughnuts rise, combine the remaining teaspoon ground cloves with the marmalade in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over low heat until it bubbles, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, then refrigerate. Transfer the cooled jam to a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 9-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick, with a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut the dough into about 16 rounds with a 2-inch round cutter. (Reroll the dough for additional sufganiyot.) Gently transfer the sufganiyot to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 tablespoons flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart, and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water), uncovered, for another 20 to 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (2 to 3 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan over medium heat to 350°F. When the dough has doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for about 45 seconds. (Note that the sufganiyot will look more brown when they’re done than they do in the oil. If you’d like, you can use scraps from cutting to test the oil.) Carefully turn the sufganiyot and fry for another 35 to 45 seconds, until golden on the second side, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool, rounded side up. (After the first batch, check to see that one has cooked through completely, and adjust frying time accordingly.)

When the first sufganiyot are cool enough to touch, poke the marmalade-filled pastry bag into the top of each pastry, and squeeze a scant tablespoon of filling into it. (The pastries are easiest to fill while they’re hot.) Repeat with the remaining sufganiyot and marmalade, dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, jewish, recipe

Why we eat

Joe rolling out dough

The night my new eating regimen was supposed to start, I mostly ignored it. Friends had us for dinner, and there was pizza, stretched thin and slathered with homemade sauce and juicy olives, and cheese to beat the band. We sat around a table outdoors, passing slices over wineglasses and olives and little tot heads until everything was gone. I couldn’t really do anything else; when the choice is eating and sharing and laughing and righting the day or not eating at all, I’ll always choose the former.

But suddenly, with this diet thing, having dinner with friends doesn’t seem like an option. And it’s killing me.

Let me just clarify something for you here: if you meet me, say, for the first time, you will not know I have lupus. In fact, yesterday, I ran the loop around Seattle’s Discovery Park, and when I slowed down on one of the hills (to a walk, if you must know), a giant furry grey owl buzzed my head, interrupting my ponytail’s swing at the base of my neck. I craned to see it roosting on a high branch, where it simply hooted at me until I started running again. Not even owls sense it, and owls are very knowledgeable.

Lupus comes and goes. But the medicines that help keep lupus at bay in my body—things like cellcept, prednisone, plaquenil, and maybe someday benlysta—leave me susceptible to things like shingles, and food poisoning, and goodness knows what else. The goal of this crazy elimination diet is to put lupus into remission, instead of repeatedly falling into these weird tailspins. I know there is a goal.

The thing is, I don’t know for sure that I need the diet to feel better, and so far I don’t feel anything but deprived. I keep waiting to feel somehow different. It’s like waiting to fall in love with someone you don’t even know. (Thank goodness mine was not an arranged marriage.)

In general, what I’m eating now feels more like hospital food than hospital food did, when I was there for days and days and days surrounding Graham’s birth. Perhaps that’s telling of the state of culinary affairs at Swedish Hospital, where the short entrée menu at the time boasted nachos, fettuccine alfredo, and a Philly cheesesteak—all very healing foods, if you’ve been admitted for a hangover. Or maybe it’s just the difference between eating for enjoyment—which Swedish fully endorses, if the milkshakes are any indication—and eating for nutrition, which is the assignment I’m currently complaining about.

Beet green chips

But I’ve been doing it. With the exception of caffeine—I’m still desperately holding on to half a cup of coffee each morning (with coconut milk creamer, naturally)—and a piece of Kate’s pie, and a snatch of potato chips that snuck up on me at Uli’s without warning, I’m doing it. I’ve made a kale version of saag paneer, minus the cheese, which turned out silky-smooth, rich with coconut milk, and the perfect consistency for napping over curried yellow split peas with leeks and garlic. There have been gorgeous salads with avocado and sunflower seeds, drizzled with new-to-me oils that give enough flavor to only require the tiniest amount of vinegar (which I should now avoid). And last night, I actually tested recipes for Dishing Up Washington—a beet and arugula salad (I avoided the goat cheese); seared, roasted king salmon steaks; and cauliflower with cumin and pine nuts. I’ve made chips out of beet greens, roasting them in a hot oven after slicking with olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt. These are not foods associated with suffering. But I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard.

I’ve ordered mint tea at one of Seattle’s best cocktail bars. I’ve spent two hours watching other people eat oysters. The worst part, though, is with Graham. The diet means that when we sit down for dinner as a family, we rarely all eat the same thing. Take Neanderthal Night, which means whole-wheat spaghetti and Bolognese for G. Dependably, a naked 2-year-old who still refuses to eat spaghetti with a fork inadvertently smears sauce over his entire torso, then offers me some—and I have to say no. Or I pretend to eat it and toss it over my shoulder. This morning I fed raspberries to the dog under the table while he wasn’t looking. Raspberries. If you’ll permit me the moment of pure crankiness, nothing sucks more than refusing your child when he offers to share his food with you.

Unless, maybe, it’s eating anywhere outside the house. On day two, we agreed to meet some friends for dinner at Whole Foods. I’m a food writer in a city of culinary wonders, and I’m eating at Whole Foods? They’ll have something, we decided. But the thing is, they didn’t. There was literally nothing in their mammoth prepared foods arena I could buy, except Vietnamese salad rolls I ate with the rice paper, until I remembered I can’t have rice. (This was day two, remember.) I ate carrots (technically too high in sugar for me, but people, it’s a fucking carrot) and hummus and weird $7 kale chips that I’d pay $7 for someone to now take out of my kitchen. And I drank coconut water. (It’s good, by the way. Coconut is my new BFF.)

But beyond that, going out to eat has been a disaster. Today, I’m supposed to meet another writer for lunch. We’d planned to meet at Dot’s Delicatessen, a new Seattle joint that may soon be famous for charcuterie and sausages. No worries, I thought. I’ll just go, and eat whatever there is that I can eat. Like the salad, which is the only green thing on a menu I’d otherwise champion. Only I’ll ask them to hold the vinegar, tomatoes, and carrots. So really, I’ll be ordering oiled lettuce, in an establishment bred to honor all things meaty. And water, please, but hold the lemon, because I can’t have that either. Goodness knows where and what we’ll end up eating.

The point of all this meandering is that I’ve been taken, this last week, with the concept of why we eat. We eat for taste, of course, and perhaps for nutrition as well. But a huge part of why I eat is about sharing, and about feeding others. When I eat, I want to eat the same things everyone at the table is eating. When I shop at the farmers’ market, I want to taste the things the vendors hand me. I’ve missed fruit immensely, but on that run yesterday, I started pulling fat, ripe blackberries from the vines lining the paths and feeding them to my dog. Somehow, that connection—watching my dog look at me anxiously, waiting for another berry, hoping I’d share—filled part of the space that’s been empty, these last days. And she’s a dog.

An empty dining room table

I knew, when I started hogwash, that there would be months like this. That’s why I subtitled it “on food and life;” for me, sometimes life is more important than food. But when lupus makes my body hurt, I usually don’t talk about it much, because there are always things that override it—food, friends, family, etc.

But this. This. This is not fun. And the things that normally help me through tough times—passing a cheese knife between two hands, or breaking a chocolate bar in two to share—just aren’t there. In a couple weeks, I’ll have a birthday, and I still haven’t figured out how there can possibly be cake.

The good news is, I think I now understand why the table feels so empty, even with all the foods I can still eat. That’s huge. As a editor of mine recently said, once you understand why you’re stuck, you have a place from which to get unstuck. Or at least start.

So I’m stuck. So what? Stuck happens. Soon–as I’m able to add foods in, one by one–I’ll be back at the party.

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread 1

For now, an old favorite. It’s a sweet rosemary cornbread from last summer-something I’d love to have right this moment, so I could slice and butter it, then serve it grilled, with grilled nectarines fat with the kind of juice they only have in mid-August. Make it for me, will you? And enjoy it, with someone else.

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread (PDF)

If you’re giving the bread as a gift, or just want it to look extra adorable, pop a sprig of fresh rosemary onto the batter before the bread goes into the oven. Then hurry it to the lucky recipient while it’s still warm, with good butter and a jar of creamed honey.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 (8” by 4”) loaves

Vegetable oil spray or butter, for greasing pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two (8” by 4”) loaf pans, and set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients to blend in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a different bowl, then add to the dry ingredients, and stir until no dry spots remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans, smooth with a spatula, and bake until brown at the edges and just cracking in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, lupus

Tension, and a Great Gatsby moment

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread 3

(Listen to the radio version of this piece here.)

There are 22 different kinds of flour in my back pantry. The space itself is awkward; it’s a repurposed linen closet next to my bathroom with a latch that doesn’t click unless you body-slam the door. Whoever opens the thing wages serious battle with the hooks that double as our coat closet. But when it comes to the flours themselves, awkward is an understatement; my flours fit into that pantry more poorly than I fit in during fourth grade (which is to say, not at all).

On the top shelf, which is reserved for sparkling water, giant jugs of vinegar, coffee, extra olive oil, and assundry rarely-used Asian groceries, there is currently one bag of bread flour and an almost-full bag of whole wheat pastry flour. (I’m storing the latter on its head, because the bottom ripped open the last time it fell out of the cabinet upon opening and snowed its ingredients down the return air vent.)

On the middle shelf, where I keep savory pantry essentials—rices, pastas, beans, and grains—there’s a four-year-old bag of chestnut flour I need to throw away, some tapioca flour, and the dried chickpeas I used to grind into a flour last week.

But the bottom shelf is the actual flour shelf. The flours I can tell you I have off the top of my head, in no particular order, are quinoa, teff, almond, whole wheat, rice, sweet rice, dark rye, corn, millet, graham, and sorghum.

Then there are the flours I actually keep in my kitchen. There’s a green bucket in the corner, meant for mixing cement, that’s filled with cake flour—a remnant of the weeks spent writing a cookbook about doughnuts. Then there are two crocks of flour, my all-stars, that I keep regularly on my counter—one is all-purpose, and one is whole-wheat pastry flour. (I use the latter because it has less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour, so baked goods don’t end up heavy.)

I’m not telling you this because I think you should buy more flour. I’m telling you because what you don’t see, reading this blog or using my recipes, is the tension between the things I love about my job and the things that make me insane. What you don’t see is that there is almost more square footage in my little house devoted to flour than there is to clothing. What you don’t see is me, in my pajamas, churning out dozens of whole-grain holiday cookies in mid-June, when I should be eating strawberries. What you don’t see is me trying to populate my blog with interesting flour recipes so that when said cookie recipes come out in edibleSEATTLE in November, people will have something to do with their leftover graham flour. What you don’t see is that every time I give you a recipe for, say, buttermilk-brown sugar buckwheat muffins, I’ve tried the recipe and toyed with it, resulting in a mountain of excess I’m rather embarrassed to talk about. I own 22 different flours. Who needs 22 kinds of flour? Wouldn’t it be better if I used the same darn flour for everything?

Well, no. At least, I don’t think so. As I see it, my role as a recipe developer is to bear the burden—oh lordy, the burden—of a cabinet that looks like 1950s London. I’ll do the experimenting here, in my house, so that you can, say, buy a bag of graham flour for a lemon-spiked blueberry bread, knowing that you’ll use at least half of it, and see how straight graham flour bakes up bigger than regular whole wheat flour, and that later, I’ll come up with something that helps you use the rest. Or so you can make those muffins, and not feel like using buckwheat is just a bit of a lark. Or so you can fry a batch of doughnuts that will make your arteries curl, and bet that when that doughnut book comes out, I’ll be giving you recipes for the whole-grain baked versions I couldn’t put in the book.

I love exposing people to new foods that could make them more excited about cooking and eating and that might, in a perfect world, make them a little healthier. I like providing inspiration for celebration, and for occasional indulgence, and for gatherings where one person looks another person in the eye and learns something new about them. I like the rhythm of my day-to-day, that ever changing, syncopated dance that allows me to blend food and life together in new measures each hour, all while wearing pajamas. This is my work.

But I really hate that cabinet.

So yes, sometimes my work gets in the way of my ideal values, which include a healthy lifestyle and a dose of minimalism and a world of easy-to-close pantry doors (although you certainly wouldn’t know it to stand in my kitchen). What I do for a living gets in the way of how I want to live. But you know that little ditty about not always getting what you want? In real life, it’s true. I want to help people eat healthier, but I’ll soon be the author of a doughnut cookbook. Hypocritical? Definitely. The right business decision for me? Probably.

So I have a new mantra, because life isn’t perfect: You can’t always get what you want, but you can always try. I can’t always write recipes that make people healthier (see here), but I can write some. I can’t depend on an organized cabinet, but I can hold a little flour rodeo once a year and make a good, honest effort at wrangling those little bags. And as I move along this path, I can decide which turns to take—which, today, means fewer refined products and a little more nutrition. Which, in turn, will probably mean more little bags of flour.

And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread (PDF)
Recipe by Laura Russell

Graham flour and local honey give this classic breakfast bread a modern twist. Without any white flour or refined sugar, this bread takes a step in a healthy direction in hopes of making you feel a little bit better about reaching for that inevitable second slice.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: One 8-inch loaf cake

2 cups graham flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup local honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of one large lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8” by 4 1/2” loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and honey together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between additions and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, and mix on medium high speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest, and mix on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes on the middle rack, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, covering the bread with foil if it begins to brown too quickly. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, fruit, grains, radio, recipe

A sweet gift

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread 1

I know! I know. I’ve been gone.

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. On the contrary, I’ve been cooking like a maniac. I’m working on a recipe development project for a corporate client, which means most workdays, three or four recipes come streaming out of my pen. So I’ve been cooking – that is, when I’m not planning, shopping, researching, or typing. There’s a little army of Tupperware containers marching out my front door every day, headed to neighbors and friends, because we simply cannot eat the volume I’ve been producing.

I’ve loved it, except for three things: First, the culinary brainstorming involved has left me spent in the ideas department. When we have room for a meal I don’t have to write about, I’ve been gravitating toward the simplest things. Lettuce from the back yard with oil and vinegar. Grilled asparagus. Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for dinner.

I also don’t like how when you sell a recipe to someone, you don’t always get to sell the exact recipe you wanted to create. (I once heard something about the customer always being right . . .)

The project, unfortunately, also does not involve much baking. I thought this was a good thing, when I took it on, but I didn’t account for 55 degrees and raining on the first morning in July.

This morning, I addressed all three, with a simple, unique-to-me, warming cornbread recipe that hits the dessert key without being overly sweet. I’ll bring one loaf as a gift this weekend, when we camp at a friend’s cabin in the mountains, and we’ll eat the other for breakfast in our tent, smeared with jam and probably a little dirt, when Graham gets up at 5 a.m.

Happy 4th.

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread 2

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread (PDF)

If you’re giving the bread as a gift, or just want it to look extra adorable, pop a sprig of fresh rosemary onto the batter before the bread goes into the oven. Then hurry it to the lucky recipient while it’s still warm, with good butter and a jar of creamed honey.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 (8” by 4”) loaves

Vegetable oil spray or butter, for greasing pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two (8” by 4”) loaf pans, and set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients to blend in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a different bowl, then add to the dry ingredients, and stir until no dry spots remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans, smooth with a spatula, and bake until brown at the edges and just cracking in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Filed under bread, Cakes, dessert, recipe

A banana bread epiphany

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (blurry)

If you squint, this banana bread doesn’t look much different from your average chocolate- and walnut-stuffed rendition. It’s perfectly moist. It makes a house smell like there’s something good about gray fifty-degree days in mid-June. But open your eyes, and you’ll see that the walnuts are actually coated in the chocolate first. Open your mouth, and you’ll get one fantasy bite after the next, all crunchy and chocolaty and soft at the same time.

Last weekend, we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Berkeley. In the morning, there was banana bread, which we toasted and slathered with butter using sturdy Swedish wooden spoons. The first day, I couldn’t put my finger on what was so delicious. But the second day, picnicking on the carpet at the Oakland airport, I realized the walnuts were actually individually coated in chocolate – an effect that, for whatever reason, absolutely makes a difference.

I’m not sure where my aunt’s bread was from – whether she made it herself or bought it somewhere – but an hour after our wheels touched down at SeaTac, I was at the grocery store, buying the ripest bananas I could find.

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite banana bread. Can someone please help me articulate why it’s so much better than banana bread with chocolate and walnuts stirred in?

I’m convinced. I’m just not quite sure why.

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (PDF)

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 loaves

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups whole walnuts (toasted, if you’d like)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from 3 large, ripe bananas, a little more or less won’t hurt)

Melt the chocolate chips slowly over low heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Add the walnuts and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Spread the nuts out on a large piece of waxed paper so they’re not touching each other, and let cool until the chocolate has hardened.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8” x 4” loaf pans (or spray them with a baking spray that claims to do the same job), and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1 1/2 sticks butter and both sugars together on high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until blended between additions and scraping the side of the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla and the mashed banana, and stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients about a third at a time, mixing on low just until blended between additions, then gently stir in the chocolate-covered walnuts by hand.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, smooth the batter flat, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the tops are browned and beginning to crack and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool in pans until comfortable to touch, then remove from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack. Store up to 3 days at room temperature, well wrapped, or freeze up to 3 months.

chocolate-covered walnuts


Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, dessert, recipe

Meet Darla

Sausage and summer veg strata 2

It’s the same sort of day as most of the other days here in Seattle, I suppose. I’m sitting at a coffee shop, next to a woman who appears, at a brief glance, to be editing a Swedish-Chinese dictionary.

I’ve started working again, three days a week. Sitting down at Herkimer, my body remembered all the right moves—sidling into a seat before getting coffee because the line was long, shyly sneaking my yogurt snack into the corner of my little bench seat, tuning into Basia Bulat. I even remembered my favorite barista’s name.

It all seems amazingly simple: I had a certain life. Then I had a child. Now I have a different sort of life, and I also have a child. Life’s changed, but then again, it hasn’t.

I can’t imagine anything better, for me, for now.

At least, I couldn’t, until we got a new dishwasher.


A new dishwasher, people, really does change a life. It’s not that we didn’t have one before. We did. It was white and dirty, rusty inside and cranky. It didn’t clean dishes particularly well, and our dinner plates didn’t fit inside. I consider myself neither a dishwasher snob nor a connoisseur, but clearly, fitting one’s dishes inside and getting them clean should be two of a dishwasher’s top attractions.

I actually learned a few things in the buying process:

a) a dishwasher should wash your dishes for you, not after you

b) putting rinsed dishes in the dishwasher with abrasive soap leads to cloudy glassware

c) with a new energy-efficient dishwasher, you really only need about a tablespoon of soap

The new one is named Darla. Yes, I named it. I mean her. But only after some thorough testing. She had to earn her keep, you see.

It turns out that the guy I bought our new KitchenAid from, Joe, has an appliance blog. Yes, he blogs about dishwashers and refrigerators and washing machines. When he told me, I tried to stifle a laugh. But then he challenged me: Try everything, he said. See if you can stump your dishwasher. Then tell me what happens.

So I did. I baked blueberry crisp, ate half of it, and reheated the leftovers, so the purple scrapies on the bottom burned right into the pan. I left the empty pan in the sink overnight, untouched, and Darla cleaned it right up.

Cranberry goop

Then I made Thanksgiving. I know that sounds crazy. It was mid-August and 85 degrees outside, but I was working on some recipes for a November issue, and I didn’t see any way to avoid it. Darla took on the sticky cranberry sauce ring, and a  challinging kale gratin dish, and boy, did she shine.

Hand tarts, assorted

Next I made little hand tarts. I let the fruit bubble up and over the cornmeal crust, right down into the baby brulee dishes I baked them in, and plunked the dishes right onto the top rack, berry crusties and all. The first time, they didn’t come quite clean, but once I moved them to the bottom rack, where the real business gets done, she came through.

Hand tart mess

Finally, I gave her cheese. I made a sausage- and vegetable-studded breakfast strata, and baked it until the top layer of cheese – the cheese leather, Jim calls it – was good and brown. We ate a third of it for breakfast the first day, then a third the second day, and the last of it on yet a third day, reheating it in the oven each time and cementing (at least we thought) layers of cheese to the dish’s topsides. Again: clean.

Strata to bake on

Darla darling, we love you for your cleaning ability. Joe was right. You can do anything.

Now, if you could only figure out how to dry the dishes, we’d be much obliged. Joe said you might not like our eco-froofroo dishwashing detergent. We switched to something that looks much more environmentally harmful, but you’re still not happy.

Darla. Oh, Darla. What should we do? We’ll have to call Joe again.

Sausage and summer veg strata

Sausage & Summer Vegetable Strata (PDF)

It’s easy to fold summer’s best produce into lunches and dinners, but I think we too often forget how good the garden tastes first thing in the morning. Here’s a make-ahead strata that shines with bright cherry tomatoes and zucchini. You can buy a baguette just for the occasion and let it sit out overnight, to dry it out, but I love to use up all the old bread heels that somehow end up congregating in the corner of my freezer.

TIME: 15 minutes prep time, plus 30 minutes baking time

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

4 large eggs

3/4 cup half and half

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Butter (for the pan)

1/2 day-old baguette, cut into 1” cubes (or 4 cups cubes of assorted bread)

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 heaping cup cooked, crumbled sausage (from 1 large sausage, about 1/3 pound)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Whiz the eggs, half and half, milk, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper together in a blender until well mixed. Butter an 8” x 8” casserole dish (or similar), and arrange the baguette chunks in an even layer in the dish. Scatter the feta, zucchini, tomatoes, and sausage evenly over the bread, then pour the egg mixture over everything, turning and scooping so that all the bread pieces are moistened. Top with the cheddar. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top layer is toasted and melty. Serve warm.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, commentary, failure, kitchen adventure, pork, recipe, vegetables

Hungry Monkey

Pretzel & mustard 2

I knew I’d want to cook again, but I didn’t know exactly how I’d get started. It didn’t happen the way I expected—not with the ripe fragrance of strawberries on the counter, or a craving, or a taste, translated from tonguespeak to brainwave, like they so often do, into some sort of cookable fantasy. It was sound that brought me in.

There are a lot of new sounds in my life right now. There’s Graham, of course, who turns out to be part horse, whinnying and neighing in his sleep. There’s the thud of the mail in the bin, always right around 2 p.m. There’s the now-familiar squeak of our not-so-gently used rocking chair.

That chair is beginning to feel like part of my own anatomy. I feed in it. I read in it. I pump in it. And yes, occasionally, I sleep in it. The other day, I had Graham on my shoulder, rocking and patting. It must have been some seldom-seen hour, because as I listened, the thwattwhattwhat sound of my palm on his back morphed into the steady rhythm of a KitchenAid, beating its contents against the side of the work bowl with dutiful regularity. I am going crazy, I thought. I am imagining my child as a stand mixer. I could see the dough in the bowl, curling and cleaving around the white hook. I’m not generally that into bread making, so it sort of surprised me to find myself wondering what sort of bread I’d start in the morning. No, I thought. If you haven’t showered in 3 days, you may not make bread. I ignored the urge, but for days, every time I went to burp Graham, I thought about it. Thwatthwatthwat.

This chair of ours, it’s been a godsend in the wee hours, which I’ve decided to dedicate to all the baby preparation reading I never did before Graham was born. At night, after I feed him, I’ve been plunking him on a pillow on my lap, and reading and rocking to make sure he’s good and konked out before putting him back to bed. This worked like a charm for the first few nights, when I was reading one of those What to Expect books, which are roughly as entertaining as a grammar primer.

Then I picked up Hungry Monkey. It’s ostensibly a book on raising a kid to eat well, so it qualifies for inclusion in my midnight reading pile. The only problem is that it makes me laugh so much—and I say makes, not made, because I keep picking it up to reread bits and parts—that I keep waking my kid up.

You know Roots and Grubs, right? It’s a blog, by Matthew Amster-Burton, another Seattle food writer. He’s fantastic; it’s one of the few blogs I actually read on a regular basis. When I’m in a funk—or worse, at a bad press event—Matthew always makes me laugh.

If I were to make sweeping generalizations, I’d say Roots and Grubs is about making his family dinner. It goes like this: He cooks something, and his daughter, Iris, says something hilarious. I’m not convinced he doesn’t make some of it up, because it’s always funny, and no one’s funny all the time. Except Matthew and Iris. I’ve never actually met her, but Iris seems to be a great advertisement for having children. And Matthew, it turns out, is a great advertisement for being a parent (in the food department, at least).

Hungry Monkey is Matthew’s first book—one I’d been waiting anxiously to read, because it chronicles his attempts to raise an Eater, capital E, within the restraints toddlerhood naturally entails (pickiness, unexplained changes in food preferences, preschool peer pressure, etc.). I plowed through my advance copy before Graham was born, chortling over stories about taking Iris to a Seattle sushi-go-round, teaching her to make pancakes on an Iris-sized griddle, and competing with other parents to make the most sensational preschool snack. Here’s the one about fish eyeballs that Graham lost sleep over:

One night I made stuffed trout for dinner. “And will the trout get very, very big when you stuff it?” Iris asked. She helped me stuff the trout with fennel, bacon, red onion, and fresh herbs.

Stuffed trout is easier to make than it is to eat, because you want to just cut off a hunk with stuffing sandwiched between two pieces of boneless fish, but there are many bones in the way of this noble intention. For this reason and because Iris is frequently more enthusiastic about cooking than eating, I figured she would forget about the trout by the time it hit the table and concentrate on the hash browns I served with it.

Wrong. Iris at the fish, the bacon, the vegetables, the potatoes, and even, well . . .

To say that she was undeterred by the fact that the fish’s head was there on the platter would be an understatement. “There’s the head!” she exclaimed. I found a piece of cheek meat and ate it, and Iris said,

“I want to eat some cheek.”

I said okay and rooted around for another piece. “There’s some check,” Iris said, pointing.

“No, that’s the eyeball.”

“I want to eat the eyeball.”


“Yes.” She took a bite. “It’s gooey. Why is it gooey?”

“Eyeballs are just like that,” said Laurie.

Iris thought about this, then requested and ate the other eyeball.

Anyway. The first time through, I folded down page corners, like I always do with food books, promising myself I’d make potstickers, and larb gai, and gingerbread cupcakes, and duck hash. Then came Graham, followed almost immediately by fantasies about raising a kid whose plate sees as much action as Iris’s. I picked up Hungry Monkey again, and bought twelve copies (not joking) for friends celebrating (or about to celebrate) Mother’s Day.

So now, every day, I open the book to a random page, hoping to absorb the crumbs of parenting wisdom Matthew sprinkles throughout his stories—but after Graham’s asleep, so when my belly jiggles I don’t disturb him as much. This morning, frustrated by Graham’s introduction to breastfeeding, I flipped to the first chapter again:

According to Laurie, on our first night home from the hospital, I made one of our favorite dinners, salmon with cucumber salad. I have no memory of this, or much of anything from those first three months before Laurie went back to work. I remember Iris nursing almost constantly, day and night, and taking naps in our laps. She refused to be put down, ever, for twelve weeks. I’m not exaggerating for effect: we held her 24-7 for twelve weeks. I called her the Ice Princess, because she never smiled. Sometimes, when it had been twenty minutes since her last feeding and she was ready for the next one, I called her Hungry Monkey.

Ah. So it’s not just me. And it’s okay, that my child has no concept of time, and that I will have no recollection of writing this?

So nice to have a book on child-rearing that tells me I’m normal.

Yesterday, I flipped to chapter 13, and was reassured in advance that no parent can avoid being a sucker at the grocery store:

But shopping at the supermarket with Iris brings up the kind of stereotypical parent-child issues that I like to pretend I can opt out of. As in: Iris tries to convince me to buy some stupid product. I say no. She whines. I relent. When we get home we eat 10 percent of the product and the rest goes stale. This happened most recently with frozen pretzels, which I agreed to buy even though I make homemade pretzels and Iris loves to sprinkle salt on them.

Time out, I thought. He makes pretzels? As in, squishy, salty, Bavarian-style pretzels? It never occurred to me that they could be produced without a two-hour rest on some sort of spinning device under heat lamps. But there it was, a recipe for pretzels, right at the back of the chapter. Better yet, it looked easy—just required a quick knead in the stand mixer. Oooh, I thought. I can make bread without actually making bread.

These pretzels require very few ingredients and the attention span of a three-year-old. (Perfect!) Sometime mid-afternoon, I announced to Jim that I’d be baking them, and that yes, I’d let him dip them in mustard. He looked at me like he was going to go get prepared to clean up after me (emotionally or physically, I’m not sure), and mumbled some sort of acquiescence.

I measured. The KitchenAid mixed. The dough puffed up. I rolled it out into skinny little snakes, feeling almost a little guilty that I didn’t wait for Graham to be old enough to make them for the first time. I boiled them, flipping them with a fish spatula before transferring them to the baking sheet. I salted, and when the salt melted in a little, I salted again. (It’s best to use salting as a verb, so you get enough on there. Someday, I’ll have a toddler who can do this for me.) They looked like a line of grumpy old men with their arms crossed, standing guard on the baking sheet. In they went.

In about 20 minutes of actual work time, I had pretzels way tastier than what we buy for $4 a pop at the German pub down the street—soft, gorgeously crackled, gently blistery pretzels. Even better, they came out of the oven on the same baking sheet I put them in on, which meant something in my brain registered “hot” and I didn’t burn my fingers, like I do every single time at Prost. We ate all six of them immediately.

Honestly, I sort of fault Matthew for buying frozen pretzels now. I mean, I understand the in situ issue—gorgeous child embarrassing him in the grocery store, baying about how if he loved her he’d buy her frozen pretzels. . . but really. If you make these, and ever feel the urge to buy a frozen pretzel afterwards, I’ll buy you a beer. (If you remind me I said this when Graham’s 3, though, I’ll deny it.)

Of course, now that I’ve made them, I have to admit that I was wrong—the thwattwhattwhat sound I was remembering is the one the paddle attachment makes, whipping a looser batter, like for a cake. Kneading dough with the hook makes more of a grumbling noise. Which, come to think of it, Graham makes also. But whatever. All that happens in the middle of the night, and in a few weeks, I won’t remember any of it anyway.

Hungry Monkey pretzel

Pretzels (PDF)
Recipe by Matthew Amster-Burton, from Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. Used with permission.

TIME: 2 hours, including rising time
YOU’LL NEED: stand mixer
LITTLE FINGERS: After I let Iris help shape pretzels, she invented this game where she curls a rubber band or piece of string into a squiggle and asks,” Would you eat a pretzel shaped like THIS? Yes or no?” Repeat a hundred times. Other than that and the obvious warnings about the electric mixer and the oven, I have no caveats about letting your children help make pretzels.

Makes 6 pretzels

8 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup lukewarm water
cooking spray
2 tablespoons baking soda
kosher or pretzel salt for sprinkling

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Stir the honey into the water until it begins to dissolve, then add the honey-water mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix with the paddle on low speed until the dough starts to come together, then switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed (4 on the KitchenAid) for 4 minutes. If the dough is very dry (bits are refusing to incorporate) add an additional tablespoon of water. Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it. Spray a bit more cooking spray on top of the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise 75 minutes, punching down the dough after 45 minutes.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Divide the dough into 6 pieces (about 2 ounces each). (It will be easier to form the pretzels if you cut the dough into strips with a bench knife rather than pulling off balls of dough by hand.) Roll each piece into a long (18-inch) snake and form into a pretzel. Place the formed pretzels on the baking sheet.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring 2 quarts of water and the baking soda to a boil in a saucepan. Add 3 pretzels to the boiling water and boil 30 seconds. Flip the pretzels, boil an additional 30 seconds, and return them to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. Sprinkle the pretzels with kosher salt or with pretzel salt (available from if you have it.
4. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool pretzels on a rack and serve warm.

Pretzel & mustard 1


Filed under appetizers, bread, kitchen adventure, media, recipe, review

A muffin that works (for me)

Sarah's millet muffin 1

Millet tastes like it sounds, in a millet muffin: rolly and crunchy and new- and old-fashioned, all at the same time. Like the kind of old woman that can simultaneously wear orange Diesel sneakers and reminisce about living through the (other) Depression.

Before January, I’d never had a millet muffin. Frankly, a few little yellow grains don’t seem like enough to make a muffin something worth eating. But a couple weeks ago, my friend Rachel piqued my interest:

My favorite (okay, the only) bakery in Williamstown used to sell millet muffins that I loved. Apparently there weren’t enough of us, because the bakery went out of business after I graduated. I have unsuccessfully tried to track down the owner to ask for her recipe. I searched online, but I only managed to find ones that used millet flour rather than whole millet. Finally, I found one with 1/3 cup millet in the ingredient list. I printed it out, mixed the wet ingredients, etc., and then realized in the instructions section that it said “mix millet flour, whole wheat flour…”. Dang! I decided just to use whole millet and see what happened. It worked pretty well and I haven’t changed it since.

We all have these recipes—they’re the ones that work, the ones we’re used to. The ones we don’t have the energy to change.

Every once in a while, though, we wake up and realize they’re not really what we want. (Here’s the lesson, right up front: It’s okay to break up with your recipes, or ask them to change for you. Trust me, sometimes it’s for the best.)

That’s what Rachel did. One day, the fact that these healthy, whole-wheat muffins fueled her mornings wasn’t enough. She loved that they relied on vegetable oil for fat and honey as a sweetener, and that the millet’s crunch wasn’t outdone by other, fancier things. But her breakfast was tough around the edges, and her recipe called for buttermilk, which she didn’t usually keep around. And when she really thought about it, they just weren’t as good as the muffins from the bakery. Transportable, but tough. Less sexy. She needed a new muffin.

I’m looking for some combination of tasty, healthy, and holdtogetherness. (I can compromise some, but I want breakfast, not dessert.) Let me know if you can help!

Oh, how I do love a challenge. There’s nothing more pitiful than a healthy muffin gone wrong. I’ve been meaning to experiment with honey as a baking sweetener forever, and oh, didn’t I just buy a big bag of millet? Indeed. The millet experiment began.

I was a little aggressive, I’ll admit. In one fell swoop, I decreased the salt, substituted plain yogurt for the buttermilk (which is almost always an option), and increased the one egg to two (to add moisture and lift). I also changed the whole wheat flour to whole wheat pastry flour, in an attempt to lighten things up a little, and added a bit of joy, in the form of lemon juice, which is a natural tenderizer, too.

Now, before we get any farther, let me just say that I know I was acting out of turn. Most good recipe testers would agree that you only change one thing at a time, as an absolute rule. So especially without testing the original recipe, I had no business being so careless. But sometimes it feels good to live without rules. (I have a friend who once made lasagna with no clothes on, and that certainly sounds more exciting than regular lasagna, doesn’t it?)

Anyway. I kept my apron snugly tied around me (although it hardly fits anymore). And just a few minutes after pulling the honey-scented batch out of oven, I tucked into a millet muffin, smeared with cinnamon honey. It was durable, but not dense. Sweet, but not sugary. Crunchy and just a smidge lemony, but through and through a millet muffin, before anything else. And definitely breakfast, not dessert.

I loved it. I wrote Rachel with the recipe.

Here’s where it gets sad.

She tried them. It was a disaster.

Her muffins poofed up and out of control, sticking to the pan and each other. She had to pry the tops off, and use a chopstick to scrape the bottoms out. She said she liked the texture better, but the lemon just wasn’t her bag and oh, goodness, who wants to make muffins that don’t just come right out of the pan?

Giving someone a recipe that doesn’t work feels like lying. I make a point to avoid doing it, but when it happens, as these things do, I don’t like it.

I assumed it was me. I punished myself for changing too many things at once. Maybe I used the wrong measuring spoon for my leaveners, I thought, or maybe I used more flour than I thought. I baked them again, this time exchanging the lemon for two teaspoons of cinnamon, which Rachel loves. The acid in the lemon juice might have contributed to the rise of her plus-sized muffins, and I wanted to make something she’d like (and avoid the same explosion issues myself). And I only changed one thing.

That cinnamon version, though, it came out just as well. I tested it in both aluminum and nonstick pans, and by golly, those muffins had just the same height as the first batch – no higher – with the same moisture, and the same great crunch. I personally preferred the lemon version, but the cinnamon-tinged ones were just fine. I noticed that the muffins baked in the aluminum pan didn’t rise quite as well, and didn’t brown quite as nicely, but something was working for me that wasn’t working for Rachel.

millet muffin alum on left nonstick on right

So I did what I always do when I’m having recipe trouble: I called my mother. She loves her whole wheat baked goods, that one. And talented as she is in the kitchen (and outside), this woman is completely incapable of following a recipe to the letter. I figured asking her to test the muffins would introduce one more variable. Just enough to see if I was crazy, thinking the recipe really worked.

She didn’t let me down. Mom mixed the muffins in a stand mixer (which can make them tough, if you don’t stop mixing right when the dry ingredients have been incorporated), and changed the yogurt – she used Greek. And you know what? They came out just fine, too. She even sent me photos. And I didn’t hear from my dad the next morning with tales of eating the entire batch, like I do when Mom bakes something sweet, which meant the muffins passed the good-for-you test that was important to Rachel. (Dads make great barometers.)

Still. I couldn’t get past having given Rachel a recipe that didn’t work for her.

I dropped the last of my whole wheat pastry flour and a little sack of millet off at Sarah’s house. She’s a recipe follower—at least I thought she was—but she used a combination of key lime and strawberry yogurts. The muffins turned out well for her, too. She liked the crunch so much she dumped some millet into her cornbread last weekend.

So I emailed Rachel. I have no answer for you, I said. I hate that these didn’t work for you. They worked for me, and two other people. We went around and around about what might have gone wrong, to no avail.

So I failed Rachel. (For now, at least, because she hasn’t tried them again. I probably wouldn’t, in her place.)

I might never know why her batch didn’t work, which drives me bonkers.

But I do have a really good, healthy, easy, milletty muffin recipe that works.

For me, at least.


Millet muffin

Whole Wheat Millet Muffins (PDF)

Made with honey, vegetable oil, plain yogurt, and a healthy dose of crunchy millet, these lemon-scented muffins are meant for breakfast, not dessert. Serve them warm or reheated, plain or with a smear of butter or extra honey.

Look for millet in the bulk foods section of a natural grocery store.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 1 dozen muffins

Vegetable oil spray
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup (raw) millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
Zest and juice (about 2 tablespoons) of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray (including the flat parts), and set aside.

Whisk the flour, millet, powder, soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In another big bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, spooning a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each one. (The muffins will not rise much.)

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until browned and only barely beginning to crack. Let cool 5 minutes in pans, then cool completely on a wire rack.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, grains, recipe, snack


Whole Wheat Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

I woke up directionless. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to do—no, not that. I have deadlines and edits to make, errands to run, things to do, just like every other day. And goodness knows I could certainly stand to pull those furry tomato plants from last summer out of the ground.

I just couldn’t get anything started.

I walked to the bathroom, and back into the bedroom. “I’m having trouble envisioning my day,” I told Jim. “Tell me what to do.”

Normally, this is not a problem. Normally, I have three days’ worth of Post-It notes fluttering around inside my brain. But we moved my office downstairs this weekend, and the little deer paths I’ve tread between rooms upstairs no longer lead me to the expected destinations. The Post-It notes are hidden under layers of thoughts about paint colors and blue sky days and all the little pieces of paper one finds behind a desk when one finally moves it.

“Go north,” said Jim. Smartass. I looked around—north was right back to bed. But I wasn’t really tired.

I headed to the kitchen, and took two sticks of butter out to soften. There, I thought. Now something will get done.

Butter has authority that way, in my kitchen. Put an apple on the counter, and it might just sit there for days, but when butter comes out to soften, it doesn’t stay long. Butter gets me moving.

Again, it worked. I puttered, and found a groove at the keyboard, and went for a walk, and when I came back, I needed pound cake.

I’m not talking about anything related to Sara Lee. I didn’t want it to be too heavy, and I wanted something that was as comfortable under a cloak of plain yogurt as it might be with a splash of heavy cream and a spoonful of lemon curd.

I know, I hear you: It’s pound cake. It has to weigh something.

Of course. But I knew there was a pound cake that sat more lightly in the stomach, one that was a smidge healthier. It wasn’t so long ago that we finished those cookies, after all.

I turned to a favorite pound cake recipe, one on the lighter side, from Maria Helm Sinskey’s book, The Vineyard Kitchen. Hers is soaked with a sugary lemon glaze that’s delicious, but not so healthybreakfasty. I brought in the whole wheat pastry flour, and scrapped the glaze, and by golly, didn’t it smell just like pound cake in about 30 minutes.

I was disappointed, though, by how it looked. All that whole wheat meant there was no sunny yellow top (I skipped the food dye, too), and no obviously spongy texture. It was not a cake I could physically wring the butter out of, and when it came out of the oven, I sort of missed that. I don’t think I’ve ever had—or even heard of—a whole wheat version, and I was afraid, at first, that I’d messed with something that should simply be enjoyed in its original state, or not at all.

vanilla bean pound cake with kathy's syrup

So I left it, for a few hours. Until I needed a snack. I sliced into it, and its texture—like a hybrid of pound cake and cornbread textures—crawled around in my mouth, exploring, breaking apart. It wasn’t heavy, but it was still sweet. Onto the plate it went, with that dollop of yogurt, and a good drizzle of Kathy’s maple syrup.

I sat. I ate. Then I had another piece, this time plain. And now, midway through the day, I’m grateful there’s no buttery sheen hanging around the corners of my mouth. It’s about time I found a pound cake that doesn’t ruin my dinner. Or my lunch, for that matter.

So it ain’t no Sara Lee. But I still love it—especially how without being soaked with a singular flavor, like lemon or almond, it has more flexibility to go from dessert to breakfast to snack, changing flavors every time. So no matter how much direction you have (or don’t), it works.

Pound cake with syrup and greek yogurt

Whole Wheat Vanilla Bean Pound Cake (PDF)

Adapted from Maria Helm Sinskey’s glazed lemon pound cake recipe in The Vineyard Kitchen: Menus Inspired by the Seasons (Cookbooks), this whole wheat pound cake makes those who can’t skip dessert feel a little less guilty—and makes those who can simply look forward to breakfast. Serve it drizzled with maple syrup and dolloped with Greek yogurt; for a treat, toast the bread with a little butter in a nonstick pan and serve with chopped fresh fruit.

You can also substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract for the vanilla bean.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 1 9”x5” loaf

Butter and flour for greasing the pan
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
Seeds from 1 (6”) vanilla bean
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

In the work bowl of a standing mixer, whip the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions, if necessary. Add the dry mixture and the buttermilk in three additions, alternating between the two, and mix until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top down, and bake for 1 hour, or until the cake is lightly browned at the edges and a knife inserted into the very middle comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store cooled cake at room temperature in a sealed container, or wrapped in plastic.


Filed under bread, Cakes, dessert, recipe

Scones and the Times

Raspberry-ginger scone 3

I think there’s a zebra hiding under my skin. At least, that’s what it feels like. Just under my ribs, where my body is usually relatively smooth, I can feel big horizontal striations where my stomach muscles are beginning to stretch and separate in preparation for all this growing I still have to do. It’s a little disconcerting. Any day now, I expect I’ll look down to find my flesh tinged with black and white stripes.

But underneath all that? I’m mostly just hungry. And that feels perfectly normal.

I’ve developed a new morning routine in these last few months. When I leave my bed, I head directly for the refrigerator, then to the toaster. (Do not pass GO.) I slide in a slice of Dave’s Killer Bread (the seedy kind), and down the hatch it goes, hot and crunchy, slathered with cream cheese or jam, or both, or—the very best—peanut butter with cinnamon sugar. Then, and only then, do I start my day, dressing, walking the dog, etc. The toast calms my stomach, and prevents those hunger pains from eating me alive.

Saturday, the routine changed. The telephone woke me just after five. On the other end, a panicked friend told me she was heading to the hospital; her six-week-old daughter had a fever that wasn’t breaking, her husband was away, and her two-year-old was fast asleep. We scrambled—no toast—and within minutes, Hilary and I were on our way to Children’s Hospital with little Esme, and my husband was posted on two-year-old duty.

The scariest thing about the ER at Children’s is its silence. While Esme was triaged, I sat in the waiting room, with an early copy of Molly Wizenberg’s new book, A Homemade Life, left in my purse from the day before. I read a mouthwatering story about scones—hot Scottish scones, the kind that are good and crumbly, not muffiny like the typical American version—and then just sat, marveling at the fact that there with kids screaming behind closed doors, parents sobbing, doctors doctoring, and all the noise normally associated with an ER, I found the room eerily peaceful. A lovely place to read, really. I had a bit of a scone daydream, there in the green pleather chair. I was making Molly’s scones at Hilary’s house, and Esme was sleeping peacefully. I’d never made scones before this weekend, but last week, they splashed through multiple conversations, and there, in the daydream, the dough was quite cooperative, and I was very good at cutting a wheel of dough into eight perfect little triangles.

That’s the only chapter I read. We were shuffled into a room, where we sat and paced and worried for 7 more hours. It turned out Esme just had a terrible upper respiratory infection (better than the spinal meningitis they were worried about). But there’s nothing more emotionally exhausting than watching an infant go through the necessary trials of blood draw, urine sampling, and (the most difficult) a spinal tap, especially when all of the above require multiple attempts. (Actually, I’m positive there’s something worse. It’s being the mother of that infant.)

That afternoon, I slept. We went to a party early, equipped with chocolate mousse for 30, and I was a total snore. By 9 p.m. I was curled up in bed, waiting for the start of a different day, one with a positive story on parenting.

Sunday, I woke up with a start, thinking I’d missed an emergency phone call. It was still dark out, and I had no messages, but going back to sleep was out of the question. I headed for the toaster.

But there in the kitchen, mid-stride, I caught the book’s cover out of the corner of my eye. Scones, I thought. I’d survived Saturday without toast first thing (or much of anything all morning, for that matter). I could surely survive without eating until the scones were finished.

Messy knife for cutting scones

It’s true; I’d never made scones. But Molly’s recipe was so exact—you had to knead the dough twelve times, no more, no less—that I couldn’t see much going wrong. And even in the semi-dark, hardly awake, it seemed easy. I rubbed the butter into the flour like you do for pie crust, then added a bit more butter, because I decided I did want a scone bursting with butter, after all. I stirred in the cream, leftover from all that mousse, and strayed a little more: I added ground ginger instead of Molly’s crystallized, and took some raspberries out of the freezer at the last possible moment. The cold, hard fruit got in the way of the dough coming together, and froze my fingertips, but in the end, on the board, it all worked out quite nicely (after twelve quick squeezes, just like Molly said it would). It was satisfying, cutting the ruby-speckled round into eight little wedges, right through the crunch of the berries. The best part, though, was indulging in the semi-dark seven o’clockness of it all—no one heard the coffee bubbling, or saw how I’ve started to collect flour on the lower stomach part of my shirt each time I bake, or watched me put my messy, pink-tinged hands right on the clean knife handle without washing them off first. They’re the perfect breakfast to make when no one’s looking.

The scones came out tanned and oozing red juice. I woke Jim, and grabbed the New York Times off the front steps, and decided that yes, this is an acceptable new morning routine. And really, nothing blankets what you see on the front page quite like a batch of scones.

For the record, you butter-stingy Scots (AKA folks who like scones made the right way) can get your hands on the real recipe when the book comes out in March.

Raspberry-ginger scone

Not-So-Scottish Raspberry-Ginger Scones (PDF)

Though this recipe is quite similar to the one for Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger in Molly Wizenberg’s upcoming book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, don’t be fooled: I use about 50% again as much butter and a touch of sugar on top (as well as heavy cream in place of half-and-half, simply because it’s what I had), which transforms them from a traditional scone to one that’s a bit more muffiny. Don’t even think about taking the raspberries out of the freezer until the oven is hot and the wet and dry ingredients are prepared; thawed berries make mushy (and very pink) dough.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for glazing
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups very frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture, like you’re making pie crust, until the all the butter pieces are pea-sized or smaller. Set aside.

Whisk the cream and egg together in a small bowl. Add the raspberries and 3 tablespoons of the sugar to the dry ingredients, and stir to coat the raspberries with flour. Add the wet ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. At this point, the dough should look fairly hopeless and dry, like it might not come together. Using your hands, squeeze the dough a few times to incorporate the flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Dump the dough out onto a clean board, and knead twelve times. (The goal is to get the dough to hold together, but there may be stray pieces of dough and flour that just plain refuse to be incorporated. That’s okay.) Pat the dough into a wheel about 1” thick, and cut into 8 wedges, like a pizza.

Carefully transfer the wedges to the prepared sheet. Pour about a tablespoon of cream into a small bowl, and use a brush to dab cream over the tops of each scone. (Dab, don’t brush, or you’ll smear pink juices everywhere.) Sprinkle the tops with the remaining two teaspoons of sugar, and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool slightly on a wire rack, and serve warm.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, recipe

Cornbread for Kristen

WG cornbread

A quick one for you:

My friend Kristen wrote me the other day with a very specific question. She wants to up the wholegrainness (her word, not mine, but I love it) of her usual Thanksgiving cornmeal stuffing, which she makes with sausage, pecans, leeks, and cranberries. (I know. I want the recipe, too.) But she didn’t want to just add bulgur or millet to the mix, lest the little pellets fall right to the bottom of the pan. No one wants stuffing baked on a layer of birdseed, right? She thought a whole grain cornbread – one made with whole wheat flour, of course, and the grains she’s been trying to squeeze into her diet baked right into the batter – would fit the bill. She just wasn’t sure how to go about it.

I wrote her about my standard rules: I freely substitute up to half the all-purpose flour in almost any recipe with whole wheat flour without blinking. If I want to add crunch, I add a tablespoon or two of millet or quinoa without changing anything else, or for more than just a touch of grain, I replace some of the whole wheat flour with the grain. . . But I couldn’t honestly tell her that there’s a ratio I always depend on. So chili climbed up a rung on our dinner menu – a deeply flavorful, spicy, vegetized version with mushrooms, roasted green chilies, and red bell peppers – and out came the cornbread pan.

The bread isn’t quite so muffiny as these cornbread muffins, what without the sour cream and all, which makes it just about right for mopping up the bottom of a bowl of chili the night before Thanksgiving.

whole grain cornbread top

Kristen’s Whole Grain Cornbread (PDF)

Here’s a recipe for the whole grain-crazy among you, based on my go-to for regular sweet cornbread muffins, the ones found on the side of the Albers yellow corn meal box. (I use a bit less sugar.) Serve the bread while it’s still warm, with a nice, hot bowl of chili, or let the bread cool completely, cut it into cubes, and toast it for you favorite cornbread stuffing.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 servings

Vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons quinoa
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” square pan with the vegetable oil spray (or butter) and set aside.

Stir the dry ingredients (through salt) together in a mixing bowl. Crack the eggs into another big bowl, whisk to blend, then whisk in the milk, vegetable oil, and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

WG Cornbread with butter


Filed under bread, recipe, side dish

Bread not for Thanksgiving

Kabocha Cranberry bread 1

Thanksgiving, in my family, is like musical chairs. Every year part of the clan seems to migrate across the country, so choosing the most convenient place to gather is sort of a moot point. Sometime in the middle of each summer, someone announces they’ll be hosting in November. We all scramble to find seats on airplanes before things get too pricey. Invariably, someone can’t make it, but the excitement of bringing the same traditions to a new place each year makes up for the disappointment of one or two people not showing up every now and then.

In the last four years, we’ve been in San Francisco, New Orleans, Cape Cod, and Park City. This year, we’ll be in Boise, at my parents’ home. My mom has shifted into high cooking gear, baking the challah that will go into our stuffing, freezing pie crusts, shopping for the best cheese prices. . . and in Seattle, I’ve started in on accessories.

This year, my job is easy. I’m making a big lasagna for the night before, and bringing a couple quickbreads for the morning, plus the turkey stock left from. . . well, when, I’m not exactly sure. (But it’s homemade, and there’s no freezer burn involved, so it should work.)

A few weeks ago, I invested in another kabocha squash. It was one of those market moments I’d prefer to forget. I plunked a big orange orb down on the farmer’s scale. Seven dollars, please, he said. I sort of squeaked in protest, a high-pitched hee-haw that would have made any donkey mama proud. But I paid, because my sister was standing next to me and I wanted to set an example of spending good money on good food, grown by good people, and it was worth it.

The first half went into Pranee’s gaeng leang. I meant to make Matthew’s chicken-ified version of my stir-fried kabocha for dinner, but instead the squash just sat there for another week. Finally, when the insides threatened to dim their shade from a bright, fiery tangerine (dare I call it Firefox orange?) to something more like burnt sienna, I shoved it into the oven with bread on the brain.

kabocha for roasting

This kabocha, it thought outside the box. For some reason I couldn’t get it to sit upright; it was so top-heavy that it kept cartwheeling over onto its stem. Sure, I could have roasted it cut side-down (or up, for that matter), but it seemed happy hanging upside-down.

The point is, it doesn’t matter how you roast it. In fact, I roasted mine for the prescribed hour, heard the timer, and plum forgot to take it out of the oven. Fifteen minutes later, the smell of burning squash skin sent me screaming back into the kitchen. The squash was torched – skin and flesh, black as night. But I let it cool, and instead of throwing it away, decided to try to pick the burned part off. The entire exterior peeled off in two or three pieces, leaving me with just a bit over two cups of soft, sweet, squash, absent of any smokey or off flavor, for my quickbread. Perfect.

I mashed and stirred and melted and plopped, and half an hour later, slid two loaves of whole wheat kabocha-cranberry bread into the oven. Out came the ultimate Thanksgiving season bread: it was moist and tender but still robust enough for the toaster, bursting with tart cranberry flavor, buttery without being heavy, and not nearly as sweet (believe it or not) as your average pie-in-loaf-form pumpkin bread.

Only, my timing was off. See, we had people over for dinner that night, and though I’d finished making the bread well before they arrived, it sat on the counter cooling when they walked in. No human deserves to walk into a house that smells like pumpkin pie, eat salad and Thai food, and leave without anything pumpkiny – especially not one who’s just given birth. So off went half a loaf.

Then Jim left to stay with a colleague in Victoria, and it really didn’t make sense for him to arrive empty-handed, so another loaf accompanied him to SeaTac.

Which left me with half a loaf, which is now, obviously, gone. Which means that on Saturday, I need to buy another $7 squash. Dammit.

Kabocha Cranberry bread 3

Kabocha-Cranberry Bread (PDF)

Kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. To roast it, slice a kabocha roughly in half and remove the seeds. Roast on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400 degrees until the flesh is good and soft, about an hour. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash the squash like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you can’t find kabocha squash, substitute a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. But if you’re using the real thing, don’t hesitate to roast the whole squash – you can always reheat the extra for dinner, served with a pat of butter and a drizzle of real maple syrup.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: Two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaves

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal (optional)
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 packed cups mashed kabocha squash (or one 15-ounce can pumpkin)
1 pint (2 heaping cups, or half a bag) fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans, and set aside.

Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flaxseed meal in a mixing bowl, whisk to blend, and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the eggs and sugar on medium speed until quite light, about 2 minutes. Stir the buttermilk into the melted butter, then alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the sugar/egg mixture, mixing on low speed between each addition until the ingredients are incorporated. Add the squash, and mix until uniform in color. Stir in the cranberries.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, and bake on the middle rack for one hour, or until the tops just begin to crack and a skewer inserted into the center of one loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to racks to cool. Enjoy warm, or let cool to room temperature and wrap in foil to keep moist.

Kabocha Cranberry bread 4


Filed under bread, Breakfast, dessert, recipe

A casualty of Big Bertha

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins 2

If what you really want is a way to spend more time with the nice TSA folks the next time you travel by air – if all that removing and rearranging and Ziplocbagging and patting and puttingbackon isn’t enough – I have a suggestion: Pack an ancient cast-iron muffin pan in your carry-on luggage.

I inherited one when I was in Boise. It belonged to my mother’s mother, Merle, who used it for popovers.

It’s certainly dainty-looking, with those cute petal-shaped cutouts on the edge, but I have trouble picking it up with one hand. We’re calling her Big Bertha.

While her twin stayed asleep in my mother’s baking drawer, I swaddled Big Bertha in my yoga pants, rust and all, and crammed her into my roll-aboard for a long-term stay in Seattle.

pan made in the USA

Sure enough, the agents at Boise International were on point. She was spotted in the X-ray machine, unearthed, tested, and passed from person to person until they were all yesverycertain that the muffin pan was not a bomb.

I scrubbed the red dust off the inside, and made the homecoming meal any cast-iron pan deserves: Corn muffins.

Only, they’re not everyday corn muffins. They don’t crawl around in your mouth like a napkin, selfishly mopping up every last bit of moisture, like so many corn muffins do. Moistened with sour cream and spiked with a smattering of crunchy whole grains, they have a little more class than the crumbly version, and quite a bit more intrigue.

Now, I’m not one to scorn a box of Jiffy. (That blue-and-white box is a go-to every time chili comes off the stove.)

But for breakfast, on a cool, sunny summer morning, with a smear of butter and a dollop of Anna’s cinnamon creamed honey, these are hard to beat.

muffin pan casualty

Next time, I hope I won’t be so blase about balancing the wet muffin pan on the edge of the sink. Big Bertha takes no prisoners.

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins (PDF)
In her essential breakfast book, Sunlight Cafe, author Mollie Katzen always mixes the sugar right into the dry ingredients for muffins, and stirs the melted butter in at the end. I’ve adopted her technique, because it saves the time required to cream butter and sugar together. (These muffins really do take 15 minutes to make.) When you pry open your first grain-studded muffin, hot from the oven, consider topping it with a fat slab of salted butter. Drizzle it with creamed honey, for good measure.

For savory muffins, skip the sugar and increase the salt to 1 teaspoon. Stir in a handful of Parmesan cheese, sautéed onions, and/or chopped green chilies, if you’d like.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 regular or 12 small muffins

Vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup (raw) millet
1/4 cup (raw) quinoa
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with the vegetable oil spray. (The batter will make 11 muffins in an age-old cast-iron pan, or 8 regular or 12 small muffins in a contemporary standard muffin pan.)

Whisk the next nine ingredients, through sugar, together in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream and eggs together until well blended and smooth. Stir in the melted butter, then add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until no dry spots remain.

Fill 8 muffin cups almost to the top with batter (or for smaller muffins, fill 12 cups a little less full), and bake for 20 to 25 minutes on the middle rack, or until puffed and barely cracked. (The muffins won’t brown much.) Let cool 5 minutes in pans, then serve warm.

Store cooled leftover muffins in an airtight container. Halve and toast before serving.

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins 3


Filed under bread, Breakfast, kitchen adventure, recipe, travel, vegetarian

The Blueberry Bread Jim Forgot

Blueberry Bread 1

The etymology of a recipe title is a sticky thing.

First, there’s this business of wanting people to understand what’s involved in the recipe instantly, in which case a descriptive name obviously gets the job done. Take All Whole Wheat Baby Blueberry Bread with Cinnamon-Walnut Streusel, for example.

Accurate? Sure. And quite often my approach. But second, there’s the importance of brevity, and simplicity. No one wants to write friends about a treat that requires an acronym in regular conversation.

Did you make that AWWBBBCWS last night?

I don’t think so.

The problem is, the simplest names are often misleading: Blueberry Breakfast Bread rolls off the tongue, but it wouldn’t be all that precise.

And for someone like me, someone who doesn’t like to skimp on the details, an imprecise title may take away from what’s special about a given recipe. This one is made with all white whole wheat flour, not just a touch, but it’s still remarkably light. There’s plain yogurt instead of sour cream in the batter, so it’s not as rich as coffee cake, but don’t you worry, there’s still enough fat in there to give it a good mouthfeel. And I do think two cups of your average highbush blueberry, dumped into the batter with such apparent overzealousness, could make the bread fall apart, whereas those bitty berries, from the type of low-lying blueberry bush common in the wild (or in Maine, or in this case, in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s) give the bread a good gong’s worth of bursting blueberry flavor, without sacrificing the structure of the cake itself.

Don’t even get me started on not telling you, right up front, that I could have added more sugar, but didn’t, in an attempt to bake a bread with a bit less cloying sweetness than your everyday blueberry coffee cake muffin.

Yes, all of this is downright impossible to fit into a recipe title.

So you see, simplicity has its downside, too.

Third, a good title will tell a bit of a story. Something about a person, or an event, maybe.

I made the bread last night, with just enough crunchy, sugary streusel topping to make the top of each slice interesting, and more tiny wild blueberries than I honestly meant to add. (I do believe this puts me smack-dab in the center of a sweets streak. I hope you’re right here with me.)

The batter seemed thick at first, thicker than I thought it would be. I really had to spread it into my loaf pans with a spatula, but once it rose up, crystalline and golden on top, I was happy I hadn’t added an ounce more moisture. I let it cool on the counter, and carefully tucked it into a bed of foil when all its heat had slipped back into the kitchen.

Last night, in my mind, I called it Blueberry Bread For Jim, Who Will Be Working On A Boat On Puget Sound For Ten Days Where Coffee Cake Isn’t So Convenient, So He Has Something Good To Eat For Breakfast On Valentine’s Day.

A mouthful, to say the very least. And though a story’s always nice, there’s the possibility that one’s idea of a good story-driven recipe title isn’t memorable for the reader, or that the story itself doesn’t quite work out.

This morning, for example, it was just The Blueberry Bread Jim Forgot.

Yup. It’s true. He forgot both loaves, just sailed off into the Sound without them. Now if someone had stolen them, half-eaten or even still untouched, from his desk in the lab on the boat, that would be one thing. We’d put a photograph on milk cartons, asking Have You Seen This Bread?

But they weren’t stolen. They were just forgotten.

So I guess that title is an accurate option. But who wants to bake a breakfast bread that’s forgettable?

The very best thing about recipe titles is that they’re infinitely changeable, so The Blueberry Bread Jim Forgot could undergo a bit of a titular face lift if, say, he made it for me upon returning from said commitment. Then it would be Jim’s Best Blueberry Bread (or Jim’s Only Blueberry Bread, but that’s beside the point), which implies a much more delicious reputation indeed, even though it would presumably taste the same.

But really, I couldn’t blame him. Setting out to sea with Instruments and Personnel (and oh, yes, that really fat boat they all but had to lube up to squeeze through the locks), his brain couldn’t have been focused so much on the kitchen counter. (Sigh.) So now it’s Blueberry Bread for Me To Consume Greedily In the Ten Days Surrounding Valentine’s Day.

In a matter of mere hours, it will be The Blueberry Bread That Won’t Stop Nagging Me All The Way From The Other Room.

But neither of those are really memorable titles, and a name that sticks is equally important.

And there we are, friends. Right back at square one.

You may call it whatever you choose. I call it breakfast every day for a week.

Blueberry Bread 2

Almost Unforgettable Whole Wheat Blueberry Bread (PDF)

When I make a conscious attempt to make a slightly healthier version of a typically unhealthy thing, there’s always the devil beside one ear, saying things like, “No sour cream? Good luck, honey.” Here’s one to prove him (or wait, I think it’s a her) wrong: Made with nonfat yogurt and all whole wheat flour, and packed with antioxidant-rich blueberries and flaxseed meal, you could almost call this bread nutritional. Seriously. Like a vitamin. Take two slices and call me in the morning.

Wait, did I mention that it’s topped with coffee cake-style walnut streusel?

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: Two 8 1/2” by 4” loaves

Baking spray or vegetable oil spray
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups plain nonfat yogurt
2 cups frozen wild (small) blueberries*, or fresh, if in season

*Note: To avoid too much streaking, be sure to keep the blueberries frozen until right before you add them to the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2” by 4” loaf pans with the spray, and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of the regular sugar together to blend, and set aside to use as a topping.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and salt to blend, and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, and mix on low to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the yogurt, and beat until almost smooth. Add all but about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing on low just until no white streaks of flour remain. Add the frozen blueberries to the remaining flour, toss to coat the berries, and gently fold the berries into the batter by hand with a plastic spatula. (The batter will be thick.)

Divide the batter between the greased loaf pans (if you have a scale, it should be about 1 1/2 pounds of batter per pan), spread it into the bottom of the pans, sprinkle the topping (generously) over the batter, and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Let the bread cool 30 minutes in pans, then transfer to racks to cool completely before wrapping. Store cooled bread wrapped in foil at room temperature, up to 3 days, or refrigerated up to one week.


Filed under bread, Breakfast, fruit, recipe

Is that French Toast Pie?

Bread pudding is what it is: just bread, usually fairly old, stale bread, morphed into pudding, a.k.a. dessert.

Before today, I’d never made it. I’d never tasted one that appealed to me. Pour all the whiskey you want over the top, I don’t care, I thought. It’s reconstituted dead bread, dressed up in someone else’s clothes. All my life, I’ve chosen creme brulee or a nice chocolate cake instead. Every time.

EBC's honey orange rosette

But then the Honey Orange bread came into my life, a fat, flowering loaf of flavor, and I let it go stale, and felt guilty. A loaf like this deserves a good ending.

This is a good ending, to any meal. It’s a good beginning, too, especially on a Monday morning, when the only other thing between you and the rest of a big week is a wet Wall Street Journal.

Only, I’m still having trouble getting over the name. I’ve never met a bread pudding I liked, so this must not be bread pudding. This is French Toast Pie. You know, all the sweet and eggy flavors of French toast, with soft, custardy centers and crisp edges in every bite, but none of the sogginess I associate with bread pudding, nor the time and attention required by regular French toast. It’s happy sliced into squares, with a pie spatula, yet the bread cubes, which taste like they’re injected with that faintly sweet, orange-flavored custard, hold their shape.

Maybe I do like bread pudding.

Orange-Honey Bread Pudding 2

Orange-Honey Bread Pudding (PDF)
Recipe 344 of 365

This is the ideal Christmas breakfast. On Christmas Eve, after everyone’s gone to bed, you take a few minutes to mix warm orange-scented milk, eggs, honey, and sugar together with a kiss of orange liqueur, pour it over cubed bread, and refrigerate it overnight. Pop it in the oven as you head to the Christmas tree in the morning; it cooks in just about the same amount of time it takes to get to the orange at the bottom of your stocking. Serve as is for breakfast, with a drizzle of cream or a dollop of yogurt, or for dessert, with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

If honey-orange bread isn’t available in your area, use a rich egg-based bread like challah or brioche.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 servings

4 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon orange or tangerine zest
1/4 cup honey (the orange blossom kind, if you have it)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 loaf (18 ounces) honey-orange rosette bread (such as EBC‘s), a few days old
4 large eggs, whisked to blend

Combine the milk and the orange zest in a small saucepan, and place over high heat. Add the honey, sugar, salt, orange liqueur, and vanilla to a mixing bowl. When little bubbles begin to appear around the edges of the milk, pour it into the mixing bowl, and whisk slowly until all the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Butter a 9” x 13” baking dish with the butter. Cut the bread into 1” cubes, and dump them directly into the baking dish.

When the milk is cool enough to touch, whisk the eggs in, and pour the liquid over the bread cubes. Use your hands to turn and mix the cubes around until evenly coated. Cover the baking dish securely with foil, and refrigerate overnight.

About 1 1/2 hours before breakfast time, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke a few holes in the foil with a fork, and bake the bread pudding for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes, or until custard is set in the center. (If desired, you can broil the pudding, about 6” from the broiling unit, for about a minute before serving, to brown the cubes up a bit.) Let sit for about ten minutes, then slice and serve.

Variation: Try adding a teaspoon of ground ginger, cardamom, or cinnamon to the milk/sugar mixture before adding it to the bread.

Bread pudding 3


Filed under bread, Breakfast, dessert, recipe

Biscuit time

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits (top)

The holidays must be drawing near: All I want to do these days is bake. I have cookies on the brain , mostly, big and small, sweet and savory. I have plans for chocolate bark and toffee, too.

Last night around 10 p.m., my brain settled on whole grain biscuits, crunchy with millet and quinoa and rich with the blue cheese that arrived mysteriously on our porch yesterday. My husband convinced me that 11 p.m. is not really biscuit time, and since they’re best eaten fresh, I gathered all the dry ingredients on the counter and waited until morning.

I woke up with a rainy day body, joints creaky and cranky, wrists in no shape to use a pastry cutter. I dumped everything into my stand mixer, and hoped for the best, leaning my forehead up against the mixer as it whipped the butter into pea-sized pieces, feeling the machine’s vibration make more space between my vertebrae. KitchenAid really should look into marketing their mixers as massage units.

It worked: The paddle pressed the butter into flat, pea-sized flakes, which wedged themselves between layers of flour and the yogurt I used as a moistener. and melted into flaky layers that would make the Doughboy jealous.

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits 2

Whole Grain Blue Cheese and Scallion Biscuits (PDF)
Recipe 321 of 365

Packed with whole wheat, flaxseed meal, oat bran, millet, and quinoa, these biscuits score high on both nutrition and flavor. Be sure to mix the dough just until the flour is incorporated, and not a moment longer – over mixing will result in tough biscuits.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: 8 savory biscuits, give or take, depending on your cutting implement

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon raw millet
1 tablespoon raw quinoa
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon oat bran
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 thin slices
1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Combine the first nine ingredients, through oat bran, in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and stir to blend. Add the butter, and mix on low speed until the butter is about the size of small peas. Add the yogurt, cheese, and scallions, and mix just until the flour looks incorporated.

Dump the mixture onto a floured work surface (the dough will be crumbly) and pat and knead it lightly until all the pieces stick together. Gently roll the dough out with a floured pin to about 1/2” thick (or a rough circle about 8” in diameter). Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, punch rounds 2” – 3” in diameter out of the dough and transfer to the baking sheet. Press the remaining dough together, roll it to 1/2” thick, and cut out the last biscuit or two.

Bake biscuits 15 – 17 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool five minutes on pan, then eat, spread with butter, if desired.

WG Blue Cheese & Scallion Biscuits

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, recipe

A Cranberry BFO

WA cranberries

Why yes, these cranberries are from Washington. I got them at the farmers’ market on Saturday. How cool is that? At least, I thought so, until I heard a marketer smarter than me ask what sorts of pesticides the farm used. “Round-Up,” came the reply. “But only where we need it.”

I took one strap of my L.L. Bean bag off my shoulder, and confirmed: Yes, I’d already purchased them. Then I had what my friend Megan calls a BFO – a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. Every fall, I eat cranberries. That means every year, I must eat some residual form of Round-Up.

It’s The Choice, all up in my grill again. Do I buy local cranberries, even if they’ve been sprayed with nasty, or do I ask someone from Cape Cod to get me the name of that organic cranberry company out there with the cute packaging, so I can pay them to load my berries up onto a truck and schlep them, fossil fuels dripping, all the way to Seattle? Or do I (gasp!) skip them entirely?

Today, I don’t know. I guess I’ll just eat them. I mean, I already bought them.

But – sigh – that’s the attitude that gets us into trouble, isn’t it.

I only wish I’d chopped the rosemary less finely, so you could actually see how nicely its piney, herby flavor mingles with the tartness of fresh, snappy cranberries. But then you’d have to chew the needles, which would be no good.

WW Cranberry-Rosemary Bread

Whole Wheat Cranberry-Rosemary Bread (PDF)
Recipe 295 of 365

Made with whole wheat flour, plain nonfat yogurt, ground flaxseed meal, antioxidant-rich cranberries, and two sticks of butter, these yummy, fragrant loaves are a pretty fair estimation of my approach to healthy eating: Search out the good, but don’t be afraid of the bad. (I’m sure whole milk yogurt – or sour cream, or buttermilk – would make the bread even more delicious.)

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: Two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaves

Baking spray, or butter and flour for the pans
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pint (2 heaping cups) fresh cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans with baking spray, or prepare with butter and flour. Set aside.

Melt the butter with the rosemary in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When melted, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Let cool for a few minutes, stir in the yogurt, and set aside. Meanwhile, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flaxseed meal in another big bowl, whisk to blend, and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the eggs and sugar on medium speed until quite light, about 2 minutes. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the sugar/egg mixture, mixing on low speed between each addition until the ingredients are incorporated. Remove the bowl from the machine and stir in the cranberries by hand.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, and bake on the middle rack for one hour, or until the tops just begin to crack and a skewer inserted into the center of one loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Enjoy warm, or let cool to room temperature and wrap in plastic to keep moist.

WW Cranberry-Rosemary crumbled


Filed under bread, Breakfast, farmer's market, fruit, recipe