Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bitty Baby's Arrival (or: ...and the family expands...)

Funny how sometimes there's an exact moment that you know things are going to change. Obviously, this doesn't happen all of the time, but I did have one of these events occur this past Tuesday afternoon. I was at my Pregnant Lady appointment, and while the doctor was checking things out - my water broke! Clearly, things were set in motion and we were going to have a baby in our house pretty soon...! I got wheeled across the street to the hospital, called Hubby on the way, and had him grab the hospital bag.
Sweet Pea and me
Hubby called our family. My parents live 3 hours from us, so it was important that they knew to hit the road. When it was time for Bitty Baby to join the world, I had Hubby at my side in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday. Our mothers were able to see her arrival as well - and her birthday is two days before my mom's, which I think is really cool.

Hubby, Bitty Baby, and Moi

Even though I got the epidural topped off, it wore off some right at the end. Oh yeah; that was fun. :P


But my goodness, seeing that little face.... It overshadowed all.

With the exception of Sweet Pea getting to hold her new baby sister for the first time. And being at home with our two beautiful girls in the beginning of a new chapter of life.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - June '09 Challenge or, I BAKE AGAIN!!

MAN, am I glad to be back on the wagon with the Daring Bakers group. I have really missed them over the last several months. Although I've never met any of them in person, I must say that it was a rather sad existence without them! The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I was intrigued by this challenge because I had never heard of a Bakewell Tart/Pudding before! I made my tart... er... pudding in stages. Not my fave way to do things, but it definitely works with a "working mom/chick" schedule.

FIRST, I made Grapefruit Curd for the jam/curd layer, as I thought that would be a nice, summery flavor. The original recipe is here. I substituted the zest and juice of 1 ruby red grapefruit for the 4 lemons, and added about a teaspoon of lemon flavoring (it seemed like it was going to be a little sweeter than I wanted). I also couldn't find my little strainer this time, and was initially going to give this curd the "rustic" label and keep rolling. But it kept bugging me, and I ended up using my screen that fits over a frying pan to strain it instead because I really wanted a smooth textured curd. I was also going to put a drop of red food coloring in to give it a pinkish tint reminiscent of grapefruit pulp, but couldn't find it, either. Eh, whatever.

Tasting it after it chilled, I wasn't really impressed with the flavor, so I added a few teaspoons of lime juice, and it became Grapefruit-Lime Curd. Then, I wished that I had just made lime curd, as I adore limes - but I still had the rest of the tart/pudding to make.

NEXT (a few days later), I made the crust. I wasn't going to mess with that frying pan screen again, and didn't know where the hell that strainer was, so I bought a sifter at "Mega Lo Mart" on the way home from work so that I could sift my dry ingredients. =:D Excellent!

I used my Pampered Chef cheese grater to grate the frozen butter, which I'd definitely do again. If you do something like this, though, a suggestion: After a few turns of the handle, gently pull the butter out of the grater with a small spoon. I was happily grinding away at one point and realized that the butter had piled up inside of the grater, so that I had several masses of it mashed together by the time I got it out. It didn't make a huge difference when I mixed the butter with the flour mixture - I just pinched it gently apart with my fingers as I was mixing, and it did fine.

I probably used twice as much almond extract as the recipe called for, because I dreamily turned the little bottle over to sprinkle it into the bowl and it just came gushing out. For some reason, almond extract just *smells* to me like it would slowly and dramatically ooze out of the bottle and into the bowl. I don't crazy imagination.

THEN came the frangipane. I was excited about this, because it seemed like this was going to be a really yummy part of the dessert! I was interested in how my almond meal was going to turn out, because I bought blanched almond slices that I was going to have to grind up. I did this once before and I just couldn't get as smooth of a texture as I'd hoped. Initially, I was going to make the frangipane while the crust was chilling, but Hubby fell asleep on the living room couch.
You're probably like, "So freakin' what?? You cook in your LR?!" Yes, the big-screen TV folds down into a work station/range....but seriously. Our living room and kitchen are essentially one big open room separated by a counter/bar, so I didn't want to have that little chopper running like crazy while he snoozed. And I can't pick him up and carry him to bed like I can do with Sweet Pea.

So that waited until another day, when I finished it all on a Saturday night (whoohoo, that's me, the party animal!) -- speaking of animals, for some reason that night we were overtaken by flies! =:O I'm still trying to figure that out. But suffice it to say that they drove me NUTZOID while I was trying to mix and bake. ANYway . . . I rolled out the crust and cut it into circles (with a plastic drinking cup from my credit union - how high-tech!) that fit perfectly into my muffin pan for mini tarts/puddings. They really turned out cute!

Close-up of the layers

The next day was Father's Day, and my parents drove over for the day to pick up a bed that we moved out of our guest room to make room for New Baby. I thought that would be a GREAT time to share the latest kitchen creation. They adored it - yay! The grapefruit-lime curd was wonderful with the frangipane, and the crust didn't have any overwhelming taste of almond that I feared. As a matter of fact, I warned my mother about the potential almond tsunami because she isn't big on the flavor, but she didn't notice it at all. Personally, I think that it just gave the whole tart a nice warm undertone that blended well with the curd.

I thought this was a really fun challenge, and the crust and curd were great make-aheads. There are so many ways you could take this flavor-wise, as evidenced by the numerous posts by my fellow Daring Bakers. Be sure and check them out here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer at the Farmer's Market and a Fruit Salad

This morning, my friend Kat and I decided we would go up the road to the Little Rock River Market and check things out. There are indoor shops, food vendors, and restaurants in the neat little downtown area. On Tuesdays and Saturdays during this time of year, they have the Farmers' Market.

Sweet Pea and I loaded up into Kat's car and off we went. Our intent was to leave and get up there early and beat the heat, as the last week or so has given us temperatures in the 90s with heat indexes of 100 degrees or so (for non-Southerners, Temp + Humidity = Heat Index, or how it "really" feels outside).

Although the Farmer's Market isn't the biggest one you'll ever see, it has grown over the years and now includes quite a few other things besides fresh fruits and veggies. We saw a dude selling wooden flutes, several people selling jewelry, and even one booth with crocheted items (though why anyone would want a cuddly crochet hat in the middle of the summer heat is beyond me). We wandered through and looked at all of the produce first to see what all was out, and then grabbed some lunch inside the River Market. Kat had gumbo from a Cajun stand, Sweet Pea had cheese pizza, and I enjoyed some sushi and a peach smoothie with "bubbles" or boba - also known as black tapioca pearls (yeh me - the weird eater - imagine!).

Refreshed after our travel-around-the-world lunch, we ventured back outside and dropped a couple of dimes on produce. I got orange bell peppers (my fave!), purple potatoes (more on them later), summer squash, a nice ripe-feeling canteloupe, and a loaf of wheat bread with sunflower seeds. Oh yes, and a potted mint plant as well as a potted basil plant. Mmmm.

After we got home - and after I took a nap because the heat had completely SAPPED me - I got to thinking how much I wanted to cut into that canteloupe. I'm typically not big on melon, and didn't realize until several years ago that canteloupe was actually GOOD. But it has to be ripe, and the melon you get in most stores and restaurants is rarely - if ever - ripe. However, I had a good feeling about this canteloupe I got and, while getting supper ready, I had an idea of a potentially yummy fruit salad that I just had to make. So here you go:

Strawberry-Canteloupe Salad

2 c. fresh strawberries, chopped

2 c. fresh cantaloupe, chopped

1 fresh lime, zest and juice

Fresh mint, minced

1/2 to 1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)


Toss to mix ingredients thoroughly. Chill thoroughly, stir well, and serve. Top with whipped cream if desired.

I think I've mentioned this before, but outside of baking I am SO the Approximate Cooker. So adjust the quantities to suit yourself - equal amounts of the berries and the melon, enough lime juice and mint to blend throughout the mixture, and a little sugar if you wish (I added just a bit so to soften the taste of the lime). Had I had any fresh ginger on hand, I think that a little bit would be good in there as well. Next time....

This is an easy One-Bowler and is an awesomely light and cool dessert during the hot season - not to mention it is healthy! YAY on all counts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have been so desperately out of the loop in doing the things I enjoy since I've been pregnant, and it finally got to the point where I *had* to do something in the kitchen! If I don't do something creative in some part of my life, I start geting really ticked off, and between you and me, I was past that point.

So the other Saturday, Sweet Pea and I decided to conquer the Daring Bakers' challenge for April - cheesecake!
Melted butter and graham cracker crumbs for crust
Hubby had brought home a store-bought one a few weeks ago that was fine as those go, but we all know that ANYTHING homemade is better, right?! Well, excluding SIL's cooking, mind you. . .but that's probably blog material for another day.
Le crust....
We did a pretty much basic cheesecake, the equivalent of wading around in the shallow end of the pool, LOL, but I wasn't really in the mindset to do anything grandiose that day. I did add about a teaspoon of lemon zest to the batter, and for the liqueur flavoring I used Grand Marnier - Sweet Pea and I chose that over the Frangelico in a sniff test. I figured kids and preggos would be OK after it baked out, anyway and - responsible parent that I am - told her that she could not TASTE the G.M. because, like vanilla, it was yukky alone but made other things taste great! :>
Cream cheese + Sugar = Yum
One other sub I made outside of the DB recipe was putting in 3/4 c. whole milk instead of 1 c. heavy cream, which we didn't have in the house (Hubby will, on occasion, come home with whole milk for no apparent reason; I don't ask, I just let him do his thing).
Cream cheese mixture, adding eggs
Into the pan we go!
Bain-marie (yes, the foil leaked - Grrr)
After 55 minutes, the cake looked firm but really jiggly, as the recipe said it would. That kind of thing always makes me nervous, but I've done cheesecakes before and it's just a feeling I ignore. When making cheesecakes, one must rack that kind of thing up to faith and just believe that it's going to turn out the way it's supposed to. And it looked great after doing its obligatory time in the oven and then cooling to room temp.

I then had what one or two people in the free world might call a "meltdown". Sweet Pea dug a hole in the top with her little play spatula, and immediately thereafter the fast food drink that Hubby had put in the front of the refrigerator toppled out as I was trying to get something else in there, and emptied its contents all over the floor. Sigh.
Looks good even with the hole out of the middle, eh? I like the toasty brown parts. :)

Now, I actually wasn't worried about the top of the cheesecake, since I had candied some kumquat slices (recipe below) with which to adorn it - it was the fact that I had already instructed her about twenty times this morning to leave things alone until I told her specifically to do something. It was just the principle of it all. Ahhh, mother- and wife-hood!

~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Candied Kumquat Slices

16 kumquats, washed and sliced into rounds approx. 1/8" thick
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Heat water and sugar on medium to med-high, stirring a couple of times, until sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. Add kumquat slices and reduce heat to med-low. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove individually, tapping/shaking liquid from pieces, and place in a single layer on a plate or piece of parchment paper. Allow to dry for a bit before decorating top of cake. Can sprinkle a small amount (1/4-1/2 c.) of sugar over them if desired.

Use the syrup (of which you will have a good bit) to glaze the cake, sweeten teas, etc. Will last in the fridge for a few weeks.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Anyway, the cake looked like we were really going to enjoy it after it chilled. I brushed a layer of the kumquat syrup over the top, made a sun design with the kumquats (it wasn't my initial intent; it just ended up turning into a sun), and brushed another layer of the syrup over them so that it would have a nice glaze.

Yeah, I know that I said I was feeling quite low-maintenance with this baking endeavour, but I remembered the kumquats and thought that'd be a really good compliment to the orange flavoring and lemon zest in the cake. And I mean, really - don't expect me to believe that you're surprised. Please.

The Results: Awesome! This is a delicious, creamy cheesecake and the recipe is soooo versatile that you can go in any direction you feel. The general consensus in our house was that it was a totally dee-vine dessert. The kumquats and cake were a really good balance. I also took some to work, and my friends thought it was totally awesome. Yeeesss! I'll need to remember to press out the crust better around the edges, as that part was a little too thick, but I will definitely make this again!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Shark, anyone??

This makes me think of "Finding Nemo" and Nemo's nickname that he gets from the other fish in the dentist's aquarium: Shark Bait (OOH-ha-ha). Sorry. (Which reminds me that I need to take the dead goldfish out of our own aquarium that I saw floating this morning... Egad. Maybe I can talk Hubby into doing the dirty deed.)

Anyway, these are some old pictures that I had on our old computer, which crashed, and that I forgot I had on the ol' memory card until I started transferring pic files yesterday. Insta-blog! ;D

Last July, we went on a trip with a group of friends who know each other through our university. Some I went to school with, some I'd met since I graduated, and some I had only "seen" online via our email listserve. We all met at Jekyll Island, Georgia and spent a week:

~Going to the beach~

~Going shopping~

^^ Sweet Pea & me during the middle of a nice little tantrum she started throwing in the middle of one shop on St. Simons Island - ahh, memories! If I look in control there it surely did not last....

~Eating good food~

^^ Spring rolls that one of our friends, Buzz, made from scratch one night

~Touring the island and admiring the beautiful old buildings~

but mostly just hanging out and nuturing some awesome friendships.

^^ Jekyll Island Club brunch, L to R: Doc Mary, Nita, Jan, Lynne, Gail, Siri, me

^^ Siri, Cindy, Kym

^^ Terry & John

^^ JJ, Neels, Gail, & Lydia

Another thing we did was to go sea fishing. Hubby went twice - the first day with our friends Jimmie, Doc Mary, and Jan;

^^ L toR: Boat dude, Hubby, Doc Mary

^^ Jiminy the Master Fisheress

and the second time with John, Siri, and me.

Siri's shark - not big enough to keep, though.

L to R: Siri, me, boat captain, John

It was really a blast, and everyone caught a good amount of fish both days so that there was plenty to share and bring back home.

Thus, with the sweet taste of salt water still clinging to our lips - even if in memory - we decided to cook up some of our spoils once we returned home. When Hubby went with The Gals, they decided to go fishing for shark, so we ended up with several steaks in the freezer. If you know us, you know one defining thing about us: Our adventurous palates! So Hubby and I were both salivating like Pavlov's dog when he threw these onto the grill. I swear to goodness, I can't remember what he used for seasoning....will try and remember to ask him and update if he actually remembers.
Clockwise from top L: Grilled shark steak; Corn on the cob; Quinoa w/tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley; Green beans & potatoes
The flesh was nice and firm yet tender, and quite mild. Someone had told Hubby that it could sometimes have an ammonia-like taste, and I could kind of pick up on this kind of "different" taste, but it was so faint that it didn't make any big impact. Plus, since sharks don't have bones, you could just dig on in there and not worry about that (I can't stand fish bones....if there's a phobia for that I have it). I'd definitely have it again - preferably caught by a familiar hand just off the coast of an extremely cool island in the company of fabulous friends. It just wouldn't be the same any other way.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Struggling to Get Regular....

As a pregnant person, I can't tell you how that means soooo many things to me right now, LOL! Seriously, I do want to get back to posting regularly - like I was, only better. And I may actually have the opportunity to get back on track with many things this week. See, Sweet Pea turned 6 on Thursday, and we had a party for her yesterday. Today, she left with my mother to visit in Mississippi for the week over spring break. She will loooove hanging out with Mom and her friends (who love to spoil little girls and let them pretend like they are grown!), as well as hanging out with my dad, kicking around in his gardens, and being a Tractor Girl.

My parents are both retired, and Dad has gotten into finding old tractors and restoring them - which is great since he's a mechanic by trade and is one of those people I want around me if the Apocalypse ever actually occurs - and he tells Sweet Pea that these are THEIR tractors. So the week for S.P. will include entertaining and being entertained by Proper Southern Ladies, as well as learning the finer points of self-sufficiency and riding around on my parents' property on whichever John Deere she and Dad decide upon at that moment. Life is good for the Pea. :)

So while we have a quieter home for several days, some of the goals on my neverending list of Stuff I Have Got to Get Done are:
  • Get the freakin' laundry caught up and put away (instead of frantically digging through the pile on the couch every morning)!
  • Get the freakin' dishes cleaned in totality and put away (instead of wishing that we could just eat off of paper plates until Jesus comes)!
  • Get the floors clean - swept, mopped, and vacuumed (instead of wishing a street cleaner could fit through our front door and scrape off my floors)!

Clean, clean, clean....everything clean! Beat Hubby and make him clean! Yesss!

As well as:

  • Catch up on organizing. What to organize, you ask? Ha! What's NOT to organize?! OK, really...if I can just get things cleaned cleaner than they have been in the last long while, I really won't focus on this very much as I will have earned myself some "ME" time.
  • Catch up on my scrapbooking. With Baby Sister on the way, I must-must-MUST get farther along on Sweet Pea's stuff than I have gotten over the last 6 years. It's shameful - if I actually thought about it - and I have this table behind me with hundreds of $$ worth of scrapping things that has been neglected for so long that Hubby thinks it is now a storage place for some of his crap, as well as the old printer he replaced and that I have no idea what he wants to do with. Inconceivable!
  • Get back into the baking that I have been missing. Really. Missing. With the job I started last summer (stupid crazy job that I regret taking, except that the other one bored me to tears, but where my perpetual "not using the gifts God gave me" lament continues) I've been thrown off even more than I ever thought I could be. It's been a struggle to just do the things that MUST be done....much less the things that I enjoy and that make me ME, that make me HAPPY. Yes, it's been a sad little hole I've been sitting in, folks, and I'm trying my best to crawl out of it. By darn. So cooking and blogging and writing about food, and my amateur attempt at food photography - I'm doing it all.
  • Just doing things I like to do. Window- and mini-shopping at Tuesday Morning-type stores. Over-shopping at Whole Foods. Playing my guitar. Writing. Pondering. Spending time outdoors. And the like.

So those are my plans for the week. Sure, I don't expect to strike 100% of that off as completed, but just knowing that I'm going to focus on these things that have been all but forgotten kinda gives me a lift. There's a hopefulness that's been gone for a while that I'm gonna get back, by gosh. And I'm really looking forward to doing it and putting it on here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Shamed Into Blogging

I get into one of my emails, the one I check least often nowadays ('cuz honestly, I'm loving gmail and this other one provided by my ISP is irritating), and find a note from one of my best-best college friends saying, "Hey, I have started a blog!" So I go to check it out and let me tell y'all - this girl has tricked out her blog site bigger than crap!! This isn't surprising, considering she was an ever-so-cool art major and an extremely bright and creative person in general. But I was reminded of how looooong it's been since I blogged, and in my humiliation and shame I thought I'd throw a post out there.

So here you go.

I'll give an update, though, since it's been so long since I just actively put something out, which is the biggest reason why I've been under the radar for quite a while. See, I went to visit my parents over Thanksgiving and noticed I was feeling kinda....weird. Couldn't put my finger on it, but something wasn't "right" (I refrain from using the word "normal" because, well, I'm not really). Anyway, in the next couple of days it hit me, and the following weekend when I was out of town at another college BFF's wedding, I decided to buy a pregnancy test.

Well, guess what - it was positive!! Yay! Now, I'll admit this wasn't something we'd been "trying" for -- plus, I've always hated that phrase "we're trying"; it reeks of desperation and just brings the bedroom out there to everybody and doggone it, that's my biz. ;D No, seriously, we already have Sweet Pea, who'll turn 6 in a couple of weeks, and I've been feeling strongly about another kiddo since she was about 3 or so, but I rationalized that it didn't need to happen for various life reasons.

Then I became forgetful and a little lax with my b.c. patch, and well.... There you are.

Anyway, I was thrilled and so was the Big Guy when I told him. However, that BFF Wedding Weekend was the beginning of several weeks of siiiiiiick for the mama, here. Very uncool (albeit an apparent necessity for my body when beginning a new life - since I went through very similar stuff with Sweet Pea) . One good thing was that I have since dropped about 15 pounds; which, if you saw me last fall or so you would likely have recognized that I've never been that freaking fat in my life. Ever. It was scary and appalling. Anyway.

Fast forward to this morning. Hubbs and I dropped Sweet Pea off at school and headed up to our nearest Big City (i.e. Little Rock) for a Level 2 ultrasound. FYI, a Level 2 is just a more detailed version of what most of consider a "regular" ultrasound. My local ob. does the regular ones, but I was referred to the medical sciences area for the sole reason of: AGE. LOL! I turned 39 on Feb. 21st - dang it, I don't feel of "advanced maternal age"! Whatever; we went. It was really cool and they took a long time checking out the baby. I personally thought that they were pretty darned thorough, and the doctor there said she thought everything looked fine, but she wanted me to come back in 4 weeks to just check again and make sure. Seems like the Little Bean was on its tummy and the ideal position to see every.thing on the ultrasound is for the baby to be on his/her back.

They were able to get a look at the hiney, though, and it seems that Sweet Pea is going to have a LITTLE SISTER! Whoohoo! Now, I didn't care one way or the other. The really cool thing about having another girl, though, is that I never got rid of any (and I do mean any) of Sweet Pea's clothes this entire time.

Sweet Pea herself was thrilled, and screamed when I told her the news in the car after school. She has been begging for a sibling for a couple of years, and most recently a sister. As a matter of fact, right before I found out I was pregnant, she said, "Mama, I want a little sister....and I want her NOW!!!!!" followed by a stamping of the foot. Okaaaaayyy, kid. Just a few days ago she told me that if the baby was a boy that we could PRETEND it was a girl and dress him in her old clothes, anyway.

Dad - you know how guys can be sometimes - made cracks about "shooting blanks" and the like. I honestly don't get the need some guys have for feeling like they "must" have a male child. I know that ALL guys aren't of this mindset, but lucky me has one who does feel that way a little. ;P Eh, I'll humor him until he freakin' gets over it (aren't I the supportive wife)!

Anyway, I'm excited and can't wait until the end of July to meet this precious cherub in real life! Now that I'm feeling better and not wanting to sleep 18 hours out of the day, I'm hoping I can catch up on all of the things I've let fall by the wayside as of late. =:D

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Daring Bakers - June '08 Challenge!

OK, this is another Daring Bakers challenge that I did not post in time. Actually, the more I think back, the reason it didn't post in time was because I made it after the deadline for the posting date. Better late than never, I always say (of course, I think this is beginning to be the story of my life, so maybe I could consider turning over a new leaf in 2009)!! Our June challenge, hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking?, was to make a Danish braid. Our requirements was that we make at least one braid, and then we could go into other shapes and flavors if desired.

This recipe does have a lot of steps, and to try and make this when you are short on time or skimp on what you're supposed to do would be setting yourself up for certain disaster. However, aside from that, nothing was hard; I really enjoyed making it! The results were heavenly.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe):
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage):
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH/DETREMPE: Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

APPLE FILLING: (Makes enough for two braids)
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

DANISH BRAID: (Makes enough for 2 large braids)
1 recipe Danish Dough
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

After rolling out and cutting into 3 sections - 2 braids & 1 piece to play with

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash:
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking:
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

Proofing - like my one straight braid and the one that wanted to go free-form? :D

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Lemon curd Danish braid

Apple Danish braid with almonds


The apple filling was awesome. On the second braid, I used a lemon curd recipe that I had sitting around -- been thinking, 'It's cool, but what would I use it for?' AHA! I'm just gonna say, I could have eaten that freakin' curd by itself without sharing. It was a lot easier than I'd thought it would be, and one day I'd love to use blood oranges, Meyer lemons, or grapefruit and see how that turns out. Here is the recipe:

Lemon Curd:
Makes about 2 cups (500 g)

4 lemons, preferably untreated, organically grown (I just scrubbed the hell out of mine)
1/2 c. (125 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/4 c. (250 g) superfine sugar (Used regular white sugar and all was well)
4 eggs
Grate the zest of each lemon and squeeze the juice into a heatproof bowl.

I love my microplane but am always paranoid that I'll end up shredding my knuckles on it

Add the butter and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Stir in the sugar gradually, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

LOVE my new camera we got this summer - look at those grains of sugar popping out in HD!

Place the eggs in a large saucepan

and beat.

Strain the sugar mixture into the pan with the eggs.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly; do not boil.

Remove from heat when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

For storing -- when cool, pour into sterilized jars and seal (or just take the extra and eat it with a spoon and don't worry about it).


I halved each of the two braids, kept one-half of each at home, and took the other two halves to work. Everybody loved it! One of my coworkers said she was going to commission me to make one for her. LOL I'll definitely make it again. Thanks, Kelly and Ben! :)

Daring Bakers - September '08 Challenge!

OK, I really have been doing a few things over the last few months.... Among other things, Hubby took the camera off to the deer camp before I could unload my pics from the memory card, and now that deer season's over I had him get it out of his truck so that I could actually PUBLISH THESE BLOG POSTS.

So as you can see, this is coming out quite tardily and, although I guess I can't prove it, I was not late in actually DOING the challenge. Whatev's. I'm just glad that I actually typed this up in September, because then all I needed to do was make a few changes and add my pics. And there is NO freaking way on God's earth that I could have remembered all the details 4 months later....

Anyway, the September challenge was something really cool and, to me, totally unexpected: Lavash Crackers! Our honorable September Hosts were Natalie from Gluten a Go Go and Shel from Musings From the Fishbowl. Natalie and Shel are two of our Alternative Bakers, Natalie being a gluten-free cook and Shel a vegan one. Our challenge was to make lavash, which is a cracker bread made in many different cultures. It was to be accompanied by a dip, and the crackers AND dip both had to be gluten-free and/or vegan. Aside from that, we were wide open and could use any flavorings, sweet or savory, that we desired.


Lavash Crackers & Toppings

(Recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread
by Peter Reinhart)

The key to a crisp lavash, to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

Mise en place, clockwise from top left: Flour , Water, Olive oil, Sugar, Yeast, & Salt

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave/sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed. [I did need all the water.]

Sweet Pea mixes

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Pre Wrap

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

Ready to roll!

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

This was fun and extremely easy to make! Of course, I got a little nervous seeing yeast in the list of ingredients, because I always have this fear of making something that just totally falls flat. But such is the life of a Daring Baker -- to laugh at the possibility of nonresponsive yeast and motor on! Bwahaha!!

Seriously, I had no problems with the yeast. It didn't seem to rise like I expected, but I think I always expect dough to like septuple in size or something. Eh.

Naturally, my Sous Chef, Sweet Pea, helped with the mixing. She was mildly irritated that I didn't give her dough to knead, as I have in the past, but I wasn't working with a large batch of dough this time. In retrospect, I had plenty to spare, so next time she can play along.

I cut my crackers into swirly patterns with my pizza cutter and sprinkled some poppy seeds, cumin seeds, Italian seasoning, and sea salt over everything. I originally wanted to do bands of each separately down the dough and cut them so that the pattern showed on each cracker, but I then realized I didn't have enough cumin seeds to do that. So I spread everything equally across the entire dough -- then realized that cumin and dried Italian herbs might not really mesh. Whoops! But it was OK.

I had made one of those Knorr spinach-veggie dips just the day before, but of course that was not vegan since it had sour cream. Gah! So I made a pseudo-hummus dip. I say "pseudo" because I had no tahini in the house, which gives hummus this layer of lovely je ne sais quoi, but it was still good because of the garlic and lemon juice. Mmmm. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkled on a little Hungarian paprika.

Then I had this creative idea and made a vegan/non-vegan yin-yang. Ha ha!

Many DB's took a break from the sweetness and made savory, but others still made some ravishingly good non-savory creations. Be sure to check the ever-growing Daring Bakers Blogroll to check them out!