Elbow Deep in Baking

Yea, almost Happy New Year!  Happy to move beyond the Christmas Baking frenzy although I do love…

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Elbow Deep in Baking

Yea, almost Happy New Year!  Happy to move beyond the Christmas Baking frenzy although I do love what I’ve been baking.  That’s the problem, I do love it!

A new recipe this year was a Truffles one that I saw in the 100 Best of Saveur.  Of course it’s Alice Medrich – one of my favorite chocolate bakers.  She calls them House Truffles:

1 Lb. Covature pistoles (she uses semi sweet morsels)

1 stick + 2 Tbs. melted unsalted butter

1/8th. tsp. salt

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1/2 C. boiling water

cocoa powder for dusting

Line an 8×8 pan with foil.  Melt the chocolate, butter and salt in  the food processsor for 1-2 minutes, stir till smooth. Let cool a bit, transfer to food processor.  Whisk yolks in a bowl and slowly whisk in the hot water….add to the processor slowly while running.  Spread evenly in the pan, chill for a few hours.  Sift some cocoa on a paper sheet, invert chocolate onto it and dust with some more, cut in blocks.   That’s it.  Smooth, creamy and waaaaay better than those round things.


This year I made Christmas Stollens without the Jersey Girl fake green and red stuff (those dried christmas fruits in a container).  I love them, not the taste but the colors so it was tough not using them.  I cut up tons of dates, almonds, dried apricots, dried cherries, etc.

Many, many moons ago, back when our neighborhood actually spoke to each other…..we have been here 35 years and seen a 100% turnover many times and for some reason no one is very social anymore.  Very sad, very isolated group, unusual I think.  I’m thinking the computer is the socialization factor now.

Anyway…I always made these and then took them around to each of our neighbors late Christmas Eve afternoon so they would be able to have them as toast on Christmas morning or my favorite….french toast.  Alas, this year, I went to my new neighbor of 6 or so years across the street – a perfect reason to meet him and say Hi (can you imagine not even saying Hi or acknowledging someone that long – he won’t make eye contact)….true enough, no surprise here, he wouldn’t answer his door!  Oh well, his loss.  I delivered the rest randomly and then came home to eat a big, fat piece of ours with a nice hot cup of tea.  It was awesome.  I will always make these, every Christmas and probably always try and deliver them…..it’s not like I have cooties.



Now that it is the end of the year I’m closing out my husbands books for the boat business.  It’s probably my least favorite thing to do…..lots of numbers, spread sheets, paperwork, files, icky stuff.  All those little pieces have to match….yiiikes.  And, I don’t do it on the computer as I have to constantly cross check information as I go and scrolling back and forth is a nightmare for me.  I can usually pick out the number I need from the masses much easier if it’s all in front of me.  I like math and I particulaily like getting it right.  Odd I know but it beats cleaning the house or any of those other mundane things we all do.

The math thing is probably why I like weaving so much.  It’s all about getting the numbers right or the end product will come out wonky if not aligned.  So, in between the paperwork I’ve been doing some weaving.

silk noil

This is a bamboo warp that I’ve had on for ages.  I’ve actually woven quite a few things off this warp already and decided to use some of this blue silk noil that has been on my shelf for years, like 25 at least.  It’s been sun bleached from living on various shelves in my studio both here in this house and in the barn apartment while we lived up there (for 22 years).  It’s kind of cool, variegated.  This photo does not show the actual color – it’s much deeper, closer to the blue in the warp.  It’s fun.  I’m not sure what this is going to be…..I’m tempted to just keep weaving until there is nothing left and then cut it up into whatever.  It’s very soothing to just throw the shuttle and not have to think about it.  This warp is on my computerized loom so the program is already in, all I do if using one color weft is tap the compressor and throw the shuttle.  It’s very high tech.  These looms are perfect for sampling warps for companies; if I only had a sampling contract I’d be set!  But, then I might not have the time to do all the other things I love to do.  It’s a problem.

Meanwhile.  Happy New Year!  Read something amazing…….I’m reading Catherine The Great by Robert K. Massie, can’t recommend it enough!  I’m also reading The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri – a detective novel taking place in Sicily, pretty cool book with lots more in the wings.  I just finished In the Shadows of the Morning by Philip Caputo; Essays on Wild Lands, Wild Waters and a Few Untamed People.  Very interesting; completely grabbed me, especially the story on Alaska.  Philip Caputo is perhaps best known for A Rumor of War, about Viet Nam.  He is one of my favorite writers.

So, it’s crappy out today…..reading on the agenda.  ciao

Pea Soup & Fast Bread

I keep seeing baked spiral hams all over the place.  Not something we ever have; probably because a certain family member (Miss Ruth to be exact) totally freaks at the thought of anything ham.  She was traumatized as a younger person when we went to a dinner party for Christmas and they served a tiny, little piggy with an apple in it’s mouth.  It was a bad scene.  We never really ate ham again, she because of the obvious, me because when I think ham I can see Ruth’s huge eyes with those big, crocodile tears streaming down her face.  The look of hurt and sadness did it for me.  Who would know?  We were guests, had no idea what was happening for the Menu.  It was a large crowd.  So, that’s my ham story.

I was lured in though recently and I thought what the heck, it’s only Paul and I here.  It was fine straight up as a warmed ham with homemade baked beans.  Then it was fine as sandwiches forever.  Then it became Mac & Cheese w/Ham; eggs & ham frittata, it went on and one…..one tiny 1/4 ham.  Finally I figured since I was eating the “forbidden fruit” I may as well try and make a pea soup.

Pea Soup is my trauma in life.  The source is not as distinct as Ruth’s suffice to say I hate it and have always thought it was beyond disgusting, even the smell.  Before I even had time to think about it I bought the dried yellow split peas, followed the bags directions – pretty simple, onions, carrots, dried peas, water…….I added the ham bone (still lots of meat on it) then added chicken stock as it kept reducing.  The ham bone (stop reading NOW Ruth) had a lot of marrow I suppose as the soup kept getting thicker….really nice.  We had that for about 4 lunches and a few dinners.  It surprised me how yummy it was.  The smell was familiar but I talked myself out of it.  Funny how that works.

This morning retired what you see to the freezer.  We are about done on that one and today, on tap, making a Haddock & Salmon Chowder so enough is enough.  Yesterday I made the bread to go with it.  I’ve posted this bread before; it’s ever changing.  Seriously if you have always wanted to make bread but don’t want to deal with the kneading and what not, this is the way to go.

Around 9 a.m. decided I wanted to make this as I noticed we had nothing to eat with the soup.  Mixed it up, big whoop – all of about 5 minutes max.  Put it in the buttered loaf tin, covered with a damp cloth.  Took doggie for the walk, gone an hour.  When I came home turned the oven on 350, popped it in and baked for 45 minutes.  When it came out of the oven gave it a once over with a stick of butter to moisten the top while still hot.  Waited 10 minutes for it to cool a bit and turned out on a wooden board to cool.  That’s it.  Fabulous, fast, easy bread.  The cool part is you can put anything you want in it – just do the basic part then keep adding cool stuff.

pea soup

Heidi Swanson’s Easy Little Bread Recipe w/my additions which change frequently

This is double the recipe as I make one long loaf in this funny extra long bread pan.  Otherwise use to normal pans.  Butter or oil the pans in prep.  Oven on 350.

2.5 C. Warm water

4 Tsp. yeast

2 Tbs. Agave or Honey

2 C. White Flour

2 C. Whole Wheat Flour (I use just whole wheat – 4 C.)

2 C. Oats (I’m looking for an alternative to this as oats bother my stomach and I don’t like the appearance in the bread (see those white things?)

3 tsp. salt

Sprinkle yeast on warm water, add hone and let sit while you gather the rest of the things.

In a large bowl add your flours and salt.  This is when I add usually at least 1/2 C. chopped walnuts, this time I added a handful of black sesame seeds and a handful of poppy seeds and a small handful of carmalized sliced almonds.  Lots of stuff in that bowl.

Make a well in the center, add your liquids, blend well with the spoon and then pour into the bread pan.  It won’t pour – it will kind of be like soft cookie dough.

Cover with the damp cloth and go for a walk or let it rise an hour or longer if you want – I’ve let it go for 3 hrs. before.

Great bread…..I’m thinking coconut next time, rice something instead of oats?  I need an easier grain, not another flour.

Christmas is fast approaching.  Paul and I are working on the spirit….I had a glass of warm Egg Nog with rum in it last night (per my friend Artie)…..magic, I felt so much better so I had another.  Paul had this weird concoction of equal parts tequila, orange pelligrino spritzer stuff and plain soda water.  It was too alcoholic for me so he drank both….duh, we were asleep by 7 and up reading at 2 a.m.  But, it was o.k.

Today we’re going to a Christmas singing concert with various Christmas story readings.  I think it will be great.  Some of my favorite people are singing in it so that is always nice to see and hear.

Making starters for my Stollen gift giving tomorrow.  I used to make them for the entire neighborhood but somehow it just faded as the years went by and the neighbors changed.  As I have not met one of my neighbors, he’s new…..he’s been here what 5 years or so and I’ve never met him.  What’s that about?????   Tomorrow I’ll be delivering him a Stollen; first person on my list!  These things are awesome as french toast on Christmas morning.  I’ll take pictures.

Fig Cookies

I’ve been trying so hard to not bake since my little mini ginger bread men debacle.  I ate all of them.  No, just kidding but quite a bit.  I finally got rid of them though – I sent two boxes out, one to my sister in Korea and one to Ruth in New Jersey.  Thank goodness.  Dangerous food.

I saw this “trend” cookie recipe in I don’t know what – perhaps Food & Wine.  Fig Bars with Red Wine & Anise, sounded good.

fig cookies

Actually…..tasted good, a ton of work to make the insides, first purchasing – went to a ton of stores and ended up paying more at the Health Food Store.  You just chop up 10 oz.dried figs, add 3/4 C. red wine, 1/3 C. sugar some lemon zest and anise seeds, cook it down a bit, fini.

The dough was a sweet dough.  Impossible to roll the stuff up in and have it look like a fig newton.  I gave up fast.  There are certain things I’ll try to make exact, this wasn’t one of them.  These taste really good but I think I’ll buy them or just not eat them.  They took too long.  I know you can buy that fig stuff in glass jars in the baking section…..do that and put it in a thumbprint cookie and you’ve got it – a whole lot easier.

We went out driving around looking at Christmas lights last night.  We were looking for cheer but I don’t think our heads were in the right space cause the cheer didn’t really happen we just discussed how old we felt and bemoaned the fact that we have no kids at home or around anymore for this holiday.  It’s not so much fun, in fact, it’s not fun at all.  But, all is not lost, I booked us a beautiful room up in Rockport, on the ocean, for Christmas day and night.  We’re sure there is going to be a really nice, fun bar with lots of festivities and cheery things going on that night.  I’ve contacted some like minded friends nearby and hope they will be there.

We are sort of stuck here in Maine for a bit.  Paul’s customers are demanding projects get done so he’s been working 7 days a week for at least 2 months now.  Guess what?  They all just went away for the holidays and said ” see you next year and here’s some more work I want you to do”. How fast can you get this done?  What the heck?  What do we look like, chopped meat?  Holidays, bah humbug.