Here I sit on a blustery December day in Southern California enjoying a hot cup of my favorite Darjeeling tea and a slice of this spice cake. Sweet Juliet is curled up at my feet enjoying a quiet nap. Mmmm. Life is good. I think […]
Raise your hands if you don’t like baked beans. Nobody? I thought so. This baked bean recipe has it all. It shines with the best beans you can buy but it is also great with plain Jane canned beans. (I used Rancho Gordo […]
“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”
Omar Khayyam had it right. Bread elevates the soul.
Studies conducted in the United States and in the United Kingdom indicate that baking bread reduces anxiety and increases happiness. Research by Boston University brain science professor Donna Pincus, for example, has shown that the act of simply mixing the ingredients for bread together can have a calming effect on the brain. She writes, “Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure and focus physically on rolling out the dough. If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction.” It all stops negative thoughts in their tracks.
Sarah and I must be outliers in these bread studies, though.
Sarah is my neighbor and a fellow cooking enthusiast. We’re the two tamale divas of an earlier post (Here) . We know our way around the kitchen. Collectively, we have more than a hundred years working in our kitchens. (We both started cooking as toddlers.)
But making bread….yikes! No calming mindfulness for us. Our hands shake as we wait for the yeast to kick in and make the dough rise. Sarah’s southern accent gets way more pronounced, and I start compulsively washing dishes. Juliet just hides under her favorite blanket to wait out the storm.
We call it bread stress.
Sarah and I know we need help. (I could make a bad knead joke here but I’m a better person than that.) After all, as M.F.K. Fischer wrote, “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” Who doesn’t want a kitchen chock full of innocence and delight? Sarah and I do. It’s just…hard.
So, this week, in our quest for better mental health, Sarah and I were off in our search for the perfect dinner roll–culling through recipes, measuring ingredients, searching for the dough hooks for our respective antique KitchenAid stand mixers… and facing down our bread stress demons.
First, we tried an Amish dinner roll from the King Arthur Flour site. The recipe has a gazillion positive reviews–raves really. We could do this.
But, alas, while our rolls were mostly pretty, they were sort of cakey and the dough was borderline sweet. We wanted airy, yeasty-tasting rolls. You know. The kind of rolls that just beg you to slather on more (and more) butter and taste so good that you eat five at a sitting.
Here is a photo of one of the Amish rolls. That photo has breakfast roll written all over it–not dinner roll. Yes?
So we continued our search for the perfect dinner roll. This time we found this King Arthur recipe for soft dinner rolls. It looked perfect and the baker reviews were quite good. And, when we had questions, the ever-patient MaryJane was waiting in the wings.
MaryJane is one of the real-life baking gurus on the baker’s hotline at King Arthur Flour in Vermont (855-371-2253). Her job is to cheerfully answer telephone inquiries that come in from all over the world about bread making. It is an amazing free service to be able to talk to a real live baker in an era when most telephone inquiries throw you into the abyss of telephone hell–recorded messages and endless options to listen to ever more recorded messages. King Arthur’s bakers are kind, too. They don’t snicker when you confess to them that you forgot to add the butter.
Here is a link to KAF’s web page about the baker’s hotline: King Arthur Flour Baker’s Hotline.
The King Arthur Flour Company has quite a backstory, too. Their website proudly boasts of their historic ties to America and American food: “We’ve been providing bakers with superior flour since 1790: from Martha Washington’s apple pie through the invention of the chocolate chip cookie, from flour in wooden barrels to bags at the supermarket, we’ve been there. Simply put, King Arthur Flour and American baking have been close companions since the very beginning.”
Thank you (and happy Thanksgiving) to MaryJane and The King Arthur Flour Company. You saved our day, calmed our jagged nerves and buoyed our lagging self-confidence. Juliet came out of hiding, too. It’s all good.
This is an adaptation of a King Arthur Flour recipe from their website. Here is the link to the original recipe: KAF Soft White Dinner Rolls
- 2 1/2 t. instant yeast
- 7 to 9 ounces lukewarm water (I used nine ounces)
- 12 3/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/4 t. salt
- 1 1/4 ounces sugar
- 3 ounces unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 5/8 ounce nonfat dry milk powder
- 1/4 C. potato flour (or 1 3/8 ounces instant mashed potato flakes)
- Melted butter to brush the tops of the rolls
- Put your dry ingredients and the butter directly into the bowl of your stand mixer. Use a whisk (or the paddle of your stand mixer) to blend the ingredients together. Put the dough hook on your mixer and then slowly add the lukewarm water to the dry ingredients. (Be sure your water is lukewarm (100 degrees or less). Water that is too hot will kill the yeast.) Knead for 5-7 minutes in your stand mixer. Your dough should be sticky when the kneading is finished.
- Remove the dough from the mixer bowl onto your counter or a lightly-floured cutting board. Knead briefly by hand until your dough is smooth and soft (like an ear lobe). Form the dough into a ball and put it into a greased bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap Let the dough rise until it is doubled. This will take about an hour.
- Gently deflate the dough (press your finger into the center of the risen dough) and turn it out onto a lightly greased surface. Press the dough down gently.
- Gently divide the dough into 12 to 16 pieces.
- Shape each piece of dough into a round ball, being careful not to work the dough too much. Place balls of dough into lightly greased muffin tins. Cover the tins with lightly-greased plastic wrap and set the muffin tins in a warm place for about an hour. You want the dough to rise until it is very puffy.
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. You want golden brown domed tops and slight-colored sides for the rolls.
- Remove rolls from the oven and cool on a rack. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter. You may choose to sift a little white flour on the tops of the muffins.
‘Tis the season. You can’t have Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving–what a great idea!) without cranberry sauce and this cranberry sauce recipe is a stunner with a bit of a southwestern kick–chiles. Cranberries are, of course, a part of America’s history. Reportedly, cranberries were served at […]
Want to really tell somebody off? Call them a polentoni (a big polenta). You read that right–a big polenta.That’s the nasty insult that southern Italians lob at northern Italians, or, at least, they did back in the day. Why’s that? It seems to have a […]
I’m enjoying a fair amount of Middle Eastern/North African cooking of late. I love the bold flavors and the high-intensity colors of the dishes from that region. Brings back good memories, too.
When the world was a gentler place, my husband and I did a lot of travelling in Egypt, Turkey and Morocco. From Morocco’s B’stilla (an over-the-top cinnamon spiced egg, almond, and cilantro filling stuffed into a phyllo dough crust and then improbably dusted with powdered sugar) to Egypt’s Om Ali (Egypt’s take on bread pudding–puff pastry with nuts, raisins, coconut and spices in a milk/cream pudding) to Turkey’s Imam Bayildi (vegetable-stuffed eggplants), I fell in love with the food, the adventure of trying new things, and the colorful stories that were often attached to the recipes. (Speaking of colorful stories, the name of that last dish translates to “the imam fainted” and the story goes that the imam fainted because the dish was so unexpectedly delicious.) I will post recipes for these dishes. I promise. I’ve made them all in my home kitchen and they are delicious and doable.
This recipe for Hielem is an adaptation of one of the soup recipes from Martha Rose Shulman’s 500-recipe book, Mediterranean Harvest. (Mediterranean Harvest is available on Amazon.)The dish is a staple of Tunisian cuisine and you can find many recipes that are variations on the bean-tomato-greens theme. For example, Greg and Lucy Malouf have a recipe for this dish in their cookbook, New Feast, that incorporates a bit of honey and is topped with coarsely-grated hard boiled eggs and capers. ( I can’t wait to try that one.)
This Hlelem is made with chickpeas and beans, onions, lots of garlic, tomato paste, greens and topped with a generous scoop of couscous and as many dollops of harissa as you can safely handle. (Harissa is a fiery chili paste.) The end product is a thick-spicy-wonderful soup that will send you to bed full and satisfied. Add a slice of baklava and this simple soup and dessert menu becomes guest-worthy.
I used Rancho Gordo’s dry chickpeas and cassoulet beans for my soup. (The original recipe called for chickpeas and baby limas.) If you are unfamiliar with Rancho Gordo, they sell dried heirloom beans and the quality of their products is exceptional. Here is a link to their site: Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans.
Your guests will thank you for this soup, or, as they say in Turkey at the end of a meal, Elinize sağlik. (Elinize saglik is a gentle compliment to the hostess, meaning “Bless your hand” and is offered as a thank you after the meal.)
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 celery stalk (chopped)
- 1 C. dried chickpeas (picked over, rinsed and soaked in 4 C. water overnight and drained--or, alternatively, cooked in an Instant Pot)
- 1 C. giant white beans soaked in 4 C. water overnight and drained---or, alternatively, cooked in an Instant Pot)
- 6 C. water
- 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
- 1/2 pound baby spinach
- 1/2 C. flat-leafed parsley (chopped)
- 1/2 C. broken vermicelli
- 1-2 t. Harissa (I used Trader Joe's brand that comes in a jar)
- Freshly ground papper
- Lemon Wedges (for garnish)
- Couscous (for garnish)
- Basil leaves (for garnish)
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and celery and cook, stirring, for about one minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the chickpeas, white beans, water and tomato paste. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the salt and the spinach and parsley. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes to 1 hour or until the broth is fragrant and the beans and vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the vermicelli and simmer until the vermicelli is tender.
- Stir in the harissa and pepper. Taste and add more salt to your taste. Serve with lemon wedges and garnished with a scoop of coursous, a small dollop of harissa and decorative basil leaves.
Happy Halloween from those of us here at Blue Cayenne. Juliet, our chief quality officer, is particularly into the Halloween party mood today. She is all dressed up in her frilly Halloween collar and can’t wait until the doorbell starts ringing tonight. Did I […]
I’ll admit it. The pumpkin push is beginning to get to me. I like pumpkin, but…
There are sixty pumpkin items on the shelves at Trader Joe’s! You read that right. Sixty!
And Trader Joe’s is not alone in its bid to promote pumpkin mania. If you look hard enough, you can buy pumpkin everything in local stores–pumpkin coffee, pumpkin O’s, pumpkin salsa (yuck!), pumpkin vodka, pumpkin bologna.
No. Wait! Pumpkin bologna?!?
OK. You caught me. I made that last one up. It was a joke–a bit of whimsy. Pumpkin bologna was the most out-there ridiculous pumpkin product I could think of.
Or, was it?
As it so often does, curiosity sent me to the Internet to see if there was such an outrageous thing as pumpkin bologna. Are you ready for this? Oscar Mayer makes a pumpkin spice bologna. Do you doubt me? See it (pictured below) with your own two eyes. Who would have believed that? I’m trying not to think what it must taste like. In my world, pumpkin usually inhabits the bakery side of the aisle rather than the deli case next to jars of Bubbie’s glorious pickles.
Then…my inner skeptic (I call her Edna) got me to wondering. Is some cyber nutcase pulling my leg? Or, put in other words, is pumpkin spice bologna another depressing example of the vast “fake news” conspiracy that is bedeviling American media?
The answer is yes. Yes!
Pumpkin spice bologna is fake news according to CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA9. There is no such thing. Nope. Never existed.
Try as I may to wrap my mind around why anyone would go to the trouble to post fake pumpkin spice bologna news and photographs on the Internet, I come up empty. If it’s a joke, it is more Larry The Cable Guy than Steven Wright or George Carlin. There are no big laughs to be had from pumpkin spice bologna gags. Corny. Corny. Corny. (We’re keeping a food theme going here, people.)
There must be more to it than lame laughs. A conspiracy, maybe. (If you are paying any attention at all to our current political scene, whatever side you are on, there’s always a conspiracy–or, more correctly, a conspiracy theory.)
So, in that vein, I’ve decided that at some point the Russians must have been involved in conceptualizing pumpkin spice bologna and striking at an American vulnerability.
Here’s the way I see it.
There they sat, cyber actors Anatoly and Vlad (not their real names), munching on a Russian pizza (a khachanpuri) somewhere in the remote wilds of Russia. They were working away on a beta version of software intended to infiltrate and disrupt the 2016 American elections but the going was tedious and their minds ran to things gustatory. Suddenly, the proverbial lightbulb went on–at least for Anatoly. Before going big, why not test America’s gullibility by planting an outrageous story about pizza. See if it would work. Spice it up with a little porn and Americans might well pay rapt attention.
The pizza project got a big fat NYET from Vlad. No one would ever fall for a story about pizza parlors and porn and the American elections, he sniffed disdainfully. Appealing to America’s obsession with pumpkin spice was quite another matter, though. They might just be able to make that one work.
Thus was born pumpkin spice bologna and the rest was history. “Эти американцы его съест!” (Those Americans will eat it up!) And apparently we did since the story caught the attention of the CBS affiliate.
Lest you sit there disappointed, Kraft has come up with a contestant in the pumpkin bologna wars. True. It isn’t pumpkin spice bologna. But, it has potential.
Back to reality…
So, there I was at Trader Joe’s, weak pumpkin-susceptible soul that I am, surrounded by TJ’s big pumpkin push–not quite craving pumpkin spice bologna but open to other pumpkin enticements. As I wheeled my cart toward the check-out line, there it was–a towering orange end-of-aisle display of pumpkin puree. I bought three cans. But, what to make?
Cake (of course) came to mind and I settled upon this beautiful pumpkin bundt cake with a spectacular brown butter glaze. If you only make the glaze and sit there in your kitchen eating it out of the bowl with a spoon, you will be a happy camper. Drizzle it over the moist pumpkin-spiced cake and you will drift off into pumpkin season revery. And that’s not fake news!
- For the Cake:
- 3 C. (384 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1 1/4 t. kosher salt
- 2 t. ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 t. ground cardamom
- 1/4 t. ground allspice
- 1/4 t. ground black pepper
- 2 C. (440 grams) light brown sugar (packed)
- 1/2 C. (114 grams) unsalted butter (soft but cool)
- 1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 (15 ounce) can (425 grams) pumpkin puree
- 1/2 C. sour Cream
- For the Glaze
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 1 C. (102 grams) confectioners' sugar (sifted)
- 1/4 C. maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- 1 to 2 T. lightly toasted pepitas
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.
- Using a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and black pepper to the bowl and whisk until these ingredients are well combined.
- Set up your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add brown sugar, butter and olive oil to the bowl of the mixer and beat at medium-high until the ingredients are well combined and fluffy. This will take about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer bowl,mixing thoroughly after the addition of each egg. Add pumpkin puree and sour cream to your batter, mixing well until combined. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary as you mix the ingredients.
- Fold the dry ingredients (flour mixture) into the bowl of the mixer using a spatula. (Remove the bowl from the mixer before you begin doing this.) Use the spatula to scrape the mixer bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter. Tap the pan on your counter a few times to remove air bubbles.
- Bake at 350 degrees F. for 55 to 65 minutes. A wooden toothpick should come out clean when pushed into the center of the cake and your cake should be golden and puffed.
- Cool the cake on a rack for 20 minutes. Use the tip of a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan and invert the cake onto a rack to cool before glazing. (Be careful in performing this step to ensure that your cake comes out of the pan cleanly without sticking.)
- Prepare the glaze by melting the butter in a saucepan. Let the butter cook until it takes on a deep golden brown color. (Watch your butter carefully during this step. It is easy to burn the butter and ruin the taste of the brown butter glaze.) Remove the melted butter from the heat, transfer it into a heat-safe bowl and let it cool slightly. Add the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and salt to the slightly cooled butter and whisk until the glaze is smooth but can be poured. If your glaze is too thick (as mine was) whisk in a few drops of water. If your glaze is too thin, add more confectioners' sugar.
- Move the cake to a serving dish and pour the glaze evenly over the top. Top with pepitas.
I baked my cake for 65 minutes and was very careful to test the cake for doneness. This is a cake with a heavy batter and you need to be sure it is thoroughly cooked before removing it from the pan. Failing to do this will leave you with some extra-dense and uncooked-appearing batter at the top of the cake.
Here is the link to the original Yossy Arefi recipe from which the recipe in this post was adapted: Yossy Arefi’s Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Mark Twain wrote that “A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” Funny. Think about it. Cauliflower: B.A., M.A., Ph.D.–and that is just one of those plain vanilla white cauliflowers. Who even knows how many degrees one of those splendid romanesco cauliflowers […]