Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing the Books on 2007 with a Slam

Today is thankfully the last day of what can only be called my personal "Annus Horribilis". For a year that started with great promise, 2007 has been frankly an awful year. I lost people who were close to me. I made a life changing decision to leave a long term situation and then I struggled with the transition from life in a city (Boston) where I didn't need a car to life in the commuter burbs of Connecticut where I can't get any errands done with one.

On a more positive note, the I made a re-commitment to fitness by hiring a fantastic personal trainer who, along with her sunny roommate, has become a close friend and gave me the most awesome pumpkin bread recipe ever. I met Lisa and Helen in Cleveland and we tore it up for a super fun weekend of cooking, drinking, smoking, and general mayhem. With the Daring Bakers, I have conquered my fear of puff pastry, hot caramelized sugar, survived the Martha Crepe Cake and did that awesome Wheat Sheath with the Tender Potato Bread Challenge.

I bought the mixer of my dreams, a Kitchenaid Pro 5 Plus and named her Isabelle.

I have traveled to some pretty exciting places, including Moscow.

My plan for 2008 is to carry the good with me and toss the bad away. To that end, I am reprinting the best recipe I made all year, The Pistachio and Cardmom Pound Cake from Survir Saran's American Masala. This has become a "go to impress" recipe and I make this about twice a month to share with various friends.


Pistachio and Cardamom Pound Cake with Lemon Icing

For the Cake:

1 cup raw, shelled unsalted pistachios
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk

For the Icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare the cake, place the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes. Cool and then pulse in a food processor until they become very fine (be careful not to over process; otherwise you'll have pistachio butter) and set aside. Reduce your oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1/2 Tbsp butter. Place a long strip of parchment paper in the pan bottom. Grease the top of the parchment with 1/2 Tbsp butter and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup, whisk in the vanilla, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the remaining stick and a half of butter and sugar until they are light and airy. Drizzle in the eggs, a little at a time, beating between additions to incorporate and scraping the bowl as necessary. Alternate adding the flour and the milk, starting and ending with the flour and mixing until the batter is just nearly combined between additions, scrapping the bowl as necessary. Fold the pistachios into the batter by hand, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack and turn it so its top faces up. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the icing: Sift the confectioners' sugar and cardamom into a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and cream or milk. Spread the icing over the cooled cake, letting it drip over the sides. Once the icing has set, slice and serve.

Good-bye and good riddance 2007. Hello 2008!!! May you and yours be safe, sound, and happy in the new year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Daring Bakers Yuletide Least the Frosting was Tasty...

Have you ever "drunk dialed"? You know, that phone call to that person you are attracted to at 2am after a night of partying where you reveal everything you DIDN'T want them to know?

Have you ever been really sick and couldn't sleep, woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the Home Shopping Network and ordered the ginzu wannabe clothes hanger chef's knife?

Have you ever taken a trip because the travel brochure looked so lovely and sunny only to arrive and find out that the photos were taken 15 years ago BEFORE the Gulf Stream shifted 30 miles north and now the sunny island paradise is a cold, dank and cloudy place?

I was going to take a pass on this month's Daring Baker challenge offered up by our founders Lisa and Ivonne, the Yule Log. I had even let Lis and Ivonne know I was going to take a pass. Between all the business travel and preparing for Christmas I basically had about three free days to complete the challenge. However, if you know me, you know that once I commit to doing something I'm a bit like a Scottish Terrier, stubborn and determined to complete my task.

So, at 2am this past Sunday morning and already one day late in posting, I woke up with a start, fretting about not being able to participate and decided that I would get out of bed and by golly, by gumption complete my duty as a Daring Baker. Besides, I have my new toy, Isabelle to help me, I've done the cake and the butter cream frosting a hundred times and I've always wanted to play with marzipan. What ever could go wrong??

Um, well....ehr....let's see here....before we get to the Yule Log as a whole, let's take a look at all the individual components of the Daring Baker Yule Log: coffee butter cream frosting and filling, genoise cake, and marzipan or meringue mushrooms.

Buttercream frosting separating? Nope. I didn't have that problem at all! In fact, I thought this was a pretty good frosting despite all the problems everyone was reporting. It was creamy and had quite a bit of good spreadable body to it and the coffee flavor was outstanding. I even made an extra batch to spread on some chocolate espresso cinnamon rolls I made that morning to take upstairs to the neighbors, it was that good.

Marzipan? Nope. I was blown away how easy it was to make my own marzipan. I have always used the pre-made marzipan that comes in the tube or can but after how easy this was and how pliable it was and tasty, I can say I won't be wasting my money on the pre-made again. I gave mine an orange chocolate flavor and ended up making 5 mushrooms: 3 button top and two morels.

Genoise? Nope. I've made quite a few of these before so I was pretty sure I wouldn't have a problem with this one. I didn't and I loved using Isabelle to just make light work of putting it all together. It baked up wonderfully and was light and airy.

So, let's take a tally here. All the individual parts of the Daring Baker Yule Log were successful and at 5:30am I was ready to assemble the log.

And this was where it all fell apart...


and completely...

As I made the first roll, my genoise began to crumble.

It began to crack.

And by the time I made my last roll...

I had a completely collapsed and crumbly mess on my hands, on my counter, on my dish towel, on the floor and one the coffee maker.

Basically a complete failure of rolling technique because well...I was tired. I was just ready to get this challenge over and I really should have stuck to my original plan; taken a pass. Oh well, too late now, so let's just finish this thing and get it over with. I frosted it, attached the mushrooms and snapped one and only one picture.

I hear decomposed dishes are all the rage these days. I even saw some on the Top Chef Christmas Special!!! Well, here is my Daring Baker version! My "Decomposed" Yule Log...

At least the neighbors liked it... and the whole mess kind of summed up my entire year; some good frosting with a crumbly mess underneath.

To see some intact logs, go check out my fellow Daring Bakers creations. And if you want to make your own version of the Yule Log, decomposed or not, you can get the recipe at Ivonne's.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Breadchick's Top Ten Chirstmas Movies of All Time (and her favourite Christmas cookie to boot!)

Every year on December 15th, to get me really in the spirit of the season, I start watching one Christmas movie a night culminating tonight with my annual private midnight viewing of that timeless classic, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'll sit down with a mug of hot chocolate, a box of kleenex, and a plate of Christmas cookies and watch George Bailey find redemption.

I don't consider the TV shows like Frosty the Snow Man, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or any of those other fantastic holiday classic Rankin/Bass TV shows as movies but I like typically watch them too.

One other Christmas movie tradition of mine is I watch "Miracle on 34th Street" twice, once on Thanksgiving Day and again on the night I wrap presents.

So, here are the movies I watch every year in no particular order. They are linked to their IMDB entry for synopsis and for version as there are a few different versions of some of these classics.

  1. The Bishop's Wife - Cary Grant, who can resist Cary Grant as an angel?

  2. Meet Me in St. Louis - Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to her little sister in that gorgeous red velvet dress

  3. Tenth Avenue Angel - Margaret O'Brien, Judy Garland's little sister in "Meet Me in St. Louis" stars

  4. Scrooged - Bill Murray and Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane, who can go wrong here?

  5. A Christmas Story - Ralphie, tongue stuck on pole, and the all time funniest Christmas present try-out of all time

  6. Home Alone - Another cute kid, best example of slap stick pratfall comedy since Laurel and Hardy

  7. Miracle on 34th Street - "I believe", "I believe"

  8. It's a Wonderful Life - "Zuzu's Petals! Zuzu's Petals!"

  9. Desk Set - Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in the best office Christmas party on film

  10. A Christmas Carol - Alastair Sim is the best Scrooge, hands down.

And there you have it, my top ten Christmas movies of all time. What are your favourite Christmas movies?

My Favourite Christmas Cookie: Linzer Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
1 egg, separated
2 to 2 1/4 cups of AP flour
2/3 cup raspberry or apricot preserves

Beat butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy on medium speed with a hand or stand mixer. Beat in two egg yolks. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour and beat at low speed, until well blended. Add additional flour, one spoonful at a time, until a stiff dough is formed. If you are using a hand mixer, you will need to do this by hand as the dough will be too stiff for most hand mixers. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each ball to a disc about 6" in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until firm.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour your cookie sheets. Beat egg white with 1 tsp of water and set aside.

Unwrap one disc and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out dough with a lightly floured pin to 3/16th inch thickness. Using either a linzer cookie cutter without center cut piece or a 2" round biscuit cutter, cut out bottom part of linzer cookie and place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2" apart. Gently knead dough scraps together, re-roll out, and cut out additional bottoms. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until firm and light golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks.

While bottoms are baking, unwrap other disc and roll out like the bottoms but this time use either the linzer cookie cutter with the center cut piece in or a 2" donut cutter. Place on prepared cookie sheets 1 1/2" apart and brush with egg white and sprinkle with reserved 2 Tbsp of sugar (I use sparkling decorator sugar sometimes too). Gently knead dough scraps together, re-roll out, and cut out additional bottoms. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until firm and light golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks.

When all the tops and bottoms are baked and cooled, place 1/2 tsp of preserves on bottoms and gently press the top onto the jam. Store in tightly covered dish at room temperature or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Memory and Wish

When I was a little girl, I waited every year for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to come on. In the early 70s it would be one of the last Christmas shows shown on TV; typically on either the 23rd, 24th or 25th of December. My brother and I would have to have our baths and be in our pajamas before my mom would make popcorn and orange kool-aid and sit us down in front of the TV in our living room with all the lights turned out except for the Christmas tree lights. It was the only time she ever let us watch tv in the dark. During the show, my brother would sneak over to the Christmas tree to shake all the presents, trying to figure out what was in them but I would watch enthralled. After the show was over, I would lay down under the tree and look up through the branches at the twinkling lights. I loved the quiet glow of the lights as I hummed the theme song to myself and thought about the meaning of Christmas.

Today is Christmas Eve and I am packing to leave bright and early tomorrow morning to go home to Michigan for the rest of the year. Tonight, after I'm all packed with my suitcase by the door for my 3:45am pick up, I'll take a shower, pop some popcorn, make some rum spiked eggnog and watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on DVD in the dark with nothing but the Christmas tree lights on.

Afterwards, I'll lie on the floor and look up at the tree and ponder the meaning of Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blogging and Baking for Four Years Strong

Four years ago tonight I started The Sour Dough with a "Hello World" post.

When I started The Sour Dough, I figured it would be a place for me to record my thoughts, talk a bit about my job as a designer of professional audio systems and share the occasional recipe or two.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that four years later not only would I still be writing but that I would have shifted the blog's focus to food with a concentration on bread and baking. Writing this blog has made me a better cook and baker and a better writer. Because of The Sour Dough, I have been invited to review cookbooks and products; which I've discovered I really enjoy doing and look forward to doing a lot more of in the upcoming year. Writing The Sour Dough has allowed me to join a really fantastic and fanatic group of fellow bloggers, The Daring Bakers. This group of zany men and women have pushed me to try things I would not have ever tried on my own. I've learned how to program a bit of CSS, HTML, and what Putty and CMD mean. I've gotten better at taking pictures and I've even learned how to work Photoshop.

Best of all, because of The Sour Dough I have met in both real life and in the ether some really fantastic friends like Sara, Lisa, Helen, Andrea, Veron, Peabody, Kelly, Elle, Ilva, Tanna, Jo, Jill, Ivonne, Jenny, Ruth, Stephanie, Laura Rebecca, Mimi, and Mary to name only a few of the people who not only leave wonderfully encouraging feedback but write me nice emails and solicit my advice about bread, baking and sometimes just life.

So, on the fourth anniversary of The Sour Dough, let me say thank you one and all for making me a better blogger and a better person. You, my readers, are fantastic and I'm proud to know you.

Here's to entering the fifth year of The Sour Dough with great oven spring, tight crumb, and a crispy crust!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Menu for Hope IV: Help Us Get to $70,000 on the Last Day with a Box of Chocolate

WOW!!! Thanks everyone so much for the outpouring of love for the Nine Chocolate Mice from LA Burdicks yesterday. As of this morning, they have moved from the unloved list to Chez Pim's "Good Odds" list (meaning there were a number of bids but there was still a chance to win) where they joined the "Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread and the "Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick".

According to Chez Pim's "Tip Sheet" there is one last prize that The Sour Dough is offering that has excellent odds that you will win and frankly, if I wasn't offering it myself, I would be slapping $30.00 down to win and that is a Small Signature Collection of Chocolate from Knipschildt Chocolatiers (prize code UE09).

Now, let me tell you something about these chocolates. First, not only had Gourmet named Knipschildt one of the top three chocolates in the WORLD but Forbes has featured them because they have the most expensive truffle, the La Madeline au Truffle.

Also, from up close and personal experience (Knipschildt's retail store, Chocopologie is located across the back parking lot from our offices) these chocolates are some of the most delectable chocolates you will ever put in your mouth. We had two of their Large Signature Collection in our office this week and let me tell you it was all I could do not to sit down at my desk with a whole box and snarf it down. And for anyone in the office who reads this blog...yes, it was I who ate all the coconut truffles.

Now, back to you getting a chance to sample these wonderful truffles. All you have to do is before midnight tonight, go to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and place a bid for Prize UE09, Small Signature Box of Knipschildt Chocolates.

We are so close to raising $70,000 for the World Food Programme and the school lunch program in Lesotho that all of us can taste it. And what a better way to share the joy than with a nice box of chocolate from one of the best chocolatiers in the world?

The Menu for Hope IV raffle ends today, December 21 so won't you please help us get there?

Here's how you can bid on the prizes The Sour Dough is offering: Knipschildt Chocolates, the LA Burdick Mice, the Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread, The Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick or any of the other fabulous prizes being offered by my fellow food bloggers of the world.

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes from our Menu for Hope prize page at (mmmmm....truffles, Prize Code UE09)

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation (Knipschildt Chocolates UE09). You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Menu for Hope IV: Up for Adoption Nine Lovely Chocolate Mice

My mice are unloved...

As of last night at 6:30pm there were only 2 raffle tickets sold for the LA Burdick Chocolate Mice in the Menu for Hope IV raffle.

Just look at their cute faces. Can't you see the sadness in their little black eyes? And see how their pretty colorful tails are all drooped? They can't even wiggle their sweet little ears they are feeling so unwanted.

So come on readers! Let's find these adorable mice a home!!

Open your hearts to them and bid to win!!! Each chance to have these cute as a button creatures only costs $10.00 per ticket. The LA Burdick Chocolate Mice are prize code UE08. If you win, you will not only receive nine really yummy tasting treats (the mice are in three flavors: dark with orange interior, milk with mocha interior, and white with cinnamon interior) but you will be helping to support a wonderful cause, the World Food Programme.

The Menu for Hope IV raffle ends tomorrow so hurry, hurry, hurry!!!

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes from our Menu for Hope prize page at (mmmmm....chocolate mice with cute little ears, Prize Code UE08)

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation (LA Burdicks Chocolate Mice UE08). You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Introducing Isabelle

I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of my cooking family, Isabelle.

Isabelle, an empire red Kitchen Aid Pro 5 Plus, arrived at 7:10pm on December 18, 2007 and weighed 29.1 lbs. Upon emerging from her comfy and warm shipping box, she immediately began what I hope to be a very happy and fruitful working relationship by making quick work of a sour cream raspberry butter crumb coffee cake batter.

Resulting in what my co-workers are calling the absolutely best coffee cake they have ever had.

Isabelle and I have a long list of goodies to make in the upcoming days, months, and years. I'm sure we'll be very happy.

If you would like your own "Isabelle" to name and care for, you should rush over to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and bid on David Lebovitz's awesome prize of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, ice cream making attachment, and autographed copy of his wonderful book "The Perfect Scoop" (prize EU17). Or if you already have an "Isabelle", live in the greater NYC area or Fairfield County Connecticut but don't know how to make homemade bread you should bid on my prize, A Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick (prize UE11).

This Friday, December 21, is the last day your $10.00 donation will get you a chance to win either these prizes or any of the other raffle items my fellow food bloggers are offering. Remember your donation to Menu for Hope IV will help support a school lunch program in Lethoso, managed by the World Food Programme. So far, we've raised over $43,000 and are inching closer to our goal of over $60,000 to better last years amount.

So hop to it or at least put your mixer on 10...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Anticipating a New Family Member

I got notification today of the imminent arrival of a new member to my family!

I can't wait to see her and introduce you to her and all the lovely things she will bring to LB and my family.

In the mean time, if you want to be anticipating something wonderful arriving at your door step in January and who doesn't like getting something in the mail or from the UPS man, then you should hurry on over to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and bid on one of the fabulous food items being offered by my fellow food bloggers (there are some really yummy things there) or better yet, you can bid on one the items I've donated to this worthy cause! The funds raised this year will help support a school lunch program in Lesotho. As of this post we have raised over $38,000; more than half way to our goal of over $60,000.

Hurry up because Menu for Hope IV ends on Friday...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Home From Russia With Love

I'm back from Moscow. It was a wonderful experience; one I'm looking forward to repeating but this time purely as a tourist. Luckily, we got one day of sight seeing in and I used it to wander around the Kremlin/Red Square area in the day light as I had only seen it at night.

To say that I'm jet lagged today would be a mild understatement of the first order. By the time you figure in the time difference, flight time, and the time required to get through the Moscow Airport security process I was up for twenty seven hours on Friday/Saturday. Needless to say not a whole lotta anything got done around Chez Breadchick over the weekend except for a trip to the gym to fight of some jet lag, laundry and a little bread baking. We, LB and I, also got our first Christmas packages in the mail on Saturday.

LB immediately celebrated by sitting on one of the boxes; making it next to impossible for me to open. He picked a good box on which to perch himself because it contained cat goodies in the form of sardines, a new stringy toy, and some catnip treats from one of his grandmothers!

I've got lots more tales from Moscow to tell you about and I promise, I'll get you all caught up on the food and fun later in the week but today I want to remind you that you only have four more days to bid on the lovely raffle prizes for Menu of Hope IV.

The last day you can donate and receive the opportunity to win either one of the four prizes I'm offering (chocolates from LA Burdicks or Knipschildt Chocolatiers, two loaves of fresh baked bread, or a day of bread baking with Breadchick) or any other other wonderful prizes being offered by my fellow food bloggers is December 21st! So hurry on up and donate here at the Menu for Hope Donation Page. All the proceeds go to fund the World Food Programme and specifically a school lunch program in Lesotho.

I have also noticed quite a few bids for the LA Burdicks Chocolate Mice (prize #UE08) and A Day of Breadbaking with Breadchick (prize# UE11)...Thanks everyone who has bid on those items. So, if you are looking for something with a really good chance of winning go ahead and bid on the small signature box of Knipschildt chocolate (prize #UE09) or the two loaves for fresh baked bread (prize# UE10). I promise you won't be sorry with either yummy goodie and you will be supporting a really awesome cause!

As of when I posted this the current funds raised are over $30,000!!! Whooot!! Now, Sour Dough readers, let's help push that even higher and closer to our goal of over $62,000 (last year's total). We can do it!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Years Day Shopping in Russia

It gets dark early in Moscow right now. By 3:30 it is dusk and by 4:30 it is pitch black outside. The weather all week has been gray and gloomy but surprisingly it fits the season. We got our first really big snow last night and since we were all in the Christmas shopping mood, we decided to head to GUM, the former State shopping mall (you remember, the store where when Russia was the Soviet Union all the babuskas would queue for hours just for the opportunity to buy a pair of shoes or cans of food). The store is decorated in white lights on every nook and cranny and there is an Olympic size ice skating rink outside filled with people zipping by at high rates of speed. You definitely don't see too many Moscovites clinging to the edge of the rink like you do at Rockefeller Center. Today, GUM is a western style shopping arcade complete with all the high end stores and a food court up on the third level and during this season is decorated for the holidays and filled with shoppers looking for New Years gifts.

For Russians, Christmas isn't the big holiday even though they decorate Christmas trees and there are santas and reindeer all over the place.

Instead, the big gift giving day here is New Years. Every place I look there are ads for the perfect New Years party to attend and best gifts to give someone. Kitchen appliances like indoor electric grills, juicers, and rotisseries seem to be the hot items to give and receive. The electronic billboard outside my hotel window is advertising kitchen gadgets every other ad While we searched GUM for a place to have dinner I walked by the Russian equivalent of Williams and Sonoma and Crate and Barrel and noticed a window full of lively coloured rotisseries (think Kitchen Aid stand mixer colours).

After walking around and discovering no place special to eat dinner, we headed to the Le Meridien National to have dinner in their restaurant. I would like to tell you I have nice food pictures of a really spectacular Russian meal but the lighting was awful and the only picture I have is a really bad picture of my wonderfully presented chicken Kiev.

The best part of the meal was my appetizer of pelimeni, a meat filled dumpling served with a sour cream sauce and sprinkled with dill. Mine were filled with beef, pork and lamb were super tasty. I like them so much, that I've looking forward to heading back to the Le Meridien National before I leave just to have them again.

Don't forget, Menu for Hope 4 is happening right now! I'm offering four great prizes for raffle and you can see what all the other food bloggers around the world are offering by visiting Chez Pim's site. To make a donation, please visit the Menu for Hope First Giving page. Just think, you can celebrate Christmas and New Years, just like the Russians do by making a donation and winning a raffle!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope 4: Good Tidings for You and Food for the World

Today marks the beginning of what has become the "must participate" event of the year for food bloggers, Chez Pim's Menu for Hope. For the past four years, food bloggers from all over the world have come together during this season of joy to raise money through an online raffle for a worthy cause.

Once again, the Menu for Hope will be supporting the United Nations World Food Programme, a program that provides food aid to the areas of the world in need because of famine, disaster, economic hardships and helps these nations develop their own food resources through education and grants. No money we raise passes through any of our hands but rather is handled by First Giving, who take the bids and then pass the raised funds on to the World Food Programme. Last year we raised over $60,000 for the World Food Programme and we hope to raise at least that much again this year.

You can help us meet that goal by purchasing a raffle ticket with a donation of $10.00 for a prize that strikes your fancy. Prizes are arranged by region and since I'm an East Coast food blogger, Adam Kuban of Slice and Serious Eats is our prize master. You can view all the East Coast prizes by visiting the East Coast Raffle Page, where you will find all the East Coast food bloggers prizes as well as links to the other regions of the world prize pages as well.

This is the third year that The Sour Dough has participated as a sponsor of a raffle item and in honor of the 4th Anniversary of The Menu for Hope, I am proud to be donating four prizes:

UE08: Box of 9 LA Burdick Chocolate Mice:

These are the signature chocolate of one of the best chocolatiers in the United States, Larry Burdick. The mice are in three flavors: dark with orange interior, milk with mocha interior, and white with cinnamon interior. Each mouse comes decorated with an adorable face and pretty silk ribbon tail. Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to bidders in the US

UE09: Small Signature Collection box of Chocolate from Knipschildt Chocolatier:

Voted one of the top three chocolates of the world by Gourmet and home of Forbes Magazine's most expensive truffle, the La Madeline au
Truffle, this collection offers a sampling of master Fritz Knipschildt's finest flavors of the season in a variety of shapes, textures, and sizes.
Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to bidders in the US

UE10: Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread from Breadchick:

I will bake fresh and ship overnight for delivery the next day two loaves of Breadchick Homebaked Breads. The winner can choose from the following breads: Classic Farmer's White, Honey Whole Wheat, Egg, or Asiago Cheese. All my breads are made with the finest natural
ingredients and with no preservatives. Winner will get to select the time/date when the breads will be delivered with a five day advance notice. Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to US

UE11: Day of Baking with Breadchick:

This is an "in your home" lesson on making bread completely by hand for the winner and up to three of their friends or family. I will come to the winner's house on a weekend day and teach them to make bread the old fashioned way, completely by hand (no mixer, no bread machine). The winner will learn all about how to have success with bread and yeast in their home and learn techniques like proofing yeast, kneading, and how do you know you will have bread and not a "hockey puck". We will make two loaves: basic white and one specialty bread like cinnamon rolls, Challah, or whole grain. The winner will also get a home bread making kit that includes my preferred loaf pan, a dough proofing tub, wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons, bakers towels, yeasts, bread flour and recipes for the breads we make with step by step instructions. This is the perfect prize for the person who is terrified of yeast and making bread by hand but always wanted to try. Due to the nature of this prize, it is only offered to folks living in NYC and Fairfield County, CT.

Now that you've seen the prizes I'm offering, here's how you donate and have a chance to win one of these prizes from the Sour Dough (bread.... fresh baked bread.... UE10) or any of the other great prizes the other food bloggers of the world are offering:

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes above (mmmmm....chocolate mice with cute little ears UE08) or one of the other fabulous prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

SEE! It's all pretty simple....

(Psst...You, ya you on the Upper West Side with the bunny slippers and the coffee mug with the big chocolate kiss on know you are scared of know I can help you become a yeast beast and then you too can be a master of bread! Five tickets for UE11)

So, what are you waiting for? Go click over to the Menu for Hope 4 and get a chance at some chocolate, some bread, or anything else on the prize lists your little heart desires and help us feed the world.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

In the Land of White Nights and Vodka

Guess where I am?!! Yup, I'm in Moscow, Russia!!! Now, how cool is that?

Ehm...actually it is very cool, like only 28 F/-2C and it is looking like it may snow. There is also only about 6 and a half hours of sunlight a day right now here owing to being so far north. The experience so far has been frankly awesome and a bit discombobulating. Moscow and Russia in general is a bit like entering a free for all in regards to a few things like oh, I don't know, getting a taxi (you flag down a car and negotiate a price to take you to where you want to go) and getting in and out of the airport (they inspect your bags coming and going and it took almost three hours to get through customs). Once we got to the hotel, I found that I was staying in the President Hotel, the former official hotel of the Communist Party for high diplomats and affairs of the state. The security is incredible, it is like entering an armed fortress but apparently that is necessary these days for protecting Western business people who are working on high profile jobs; which I can't tell you much about yet but let's just say that when the next major rock and roll band tours in Moscow early next year, I can ensure them their sound system tech rider will be met and it will get plenty stinkin' loud....oh like to 11.

After checking into the hotel, we had a few hours for some sight seeing and a colleague and I went right to Red Square and the Kremlin. All the pictures in the world don't do Red Square or the Kremlin justice. They are gargantuan and the colors are so vibrant, so Russian. It was spitting huge flakes of snow while we stood in line to view Lenin's body (my colleague wanted to see the mold that is allegedly growing on Lenin's nose and in return said he would go to the Eliseev Gastronome with me). Eliseev Gastronome is unreal and like stepping back into a time when the Russian Court was still installed. There were foods from all over the world, barrels of caviar, smoked fish and meat of every kind, and was all very overwhelming; not unlike the food halls at Harrods, Fortnum Mason, and Galeries Lafayette. We sampled some dry cured meats and cheeses and I had my first truly spectacular caviar, these huge golden fish eggs that tasted of the sea when they burst in my mouth. Nothing like the caviar I have had before and if all caviar tasted like this I'd be eating it every day! After picking up a few things at a souvenir shop next to the Gastronome we headed to a little cafe, Mon Cafe for dessert where I got a delicious creme caramel and some tea and my colleague got a fig tart and espresso.

When we finished with dessert and while we walked back to the metro it began to snow those huge massive snow flakes again and somewhere in the distance I'm pretty sure I heard the tinkling of sleigh bells and the theme music to Dr. Zhivago...

Friday, December 07, 2007

I'm Late! I'm Late!! For a Very Important Date...ehm..Party!!

OK, call it late owing to time differences (You know I'm in Moscow right?...RIGHT!!! Does that mean I can blame this on an 8+ hour time difference or all the vodka I just had at dinner?).

So, I'm late for a someone very special's housewarming party!!! The very lovely, super funny, and incredibly talented Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody is having a housewarming party this Saturday 'cause she and her sweet husband and pooch have just moved into a new house complete with a Daring Baker's dream kitchen!

Now, I had a few ideas about what to bring and had planned on bringing some fun bread and maybe an appie or two but...I got waylaid in packing for a trip to a country that has one foot in the 21st Century and another foot in a country that looks like the "Wild West" (Who knew you should bring water purification tablets and a small roll of toilet paper to a country that charges over $700 a night/2,450 Rubbles for a room at the Holiday Inn??!!)

Anyways, last weekend I was trying to figure something quick but super delicious to bring to a fellow Flames fan (Go FLAMES!!!) with a sweet tooth that almost beats mine while rummaging around the pantry for Christmas cookie ingredients when I was literally hit in the head with inspiration (in the form of a bag of white chocolate chips)...

How about Seven Layer Bars!! You would know them as Congo Bars or Dolly Madison Cookies or Magic Bars (huge bonus points to anyone who gets the Seinfeld homage in this this vodka induced, exclamation pointed sentence).

Yup, as fellow Daring Baker Brilynn says "Go Big or Go Home"; meaning I decided to use every type of nut and chip I had in my pantry on what I consider the best over the top cookie on the face of the planet and bring a big ole pan of them with me to pass around and stand in her fabulous new kitchen kvetching with my fellow bakers and bloggers.

Because after all, if I'm going to be late with my offering to the potluck it better be darn good and gooey.

Happy New House Peabody!!!

Peabody's Over the Top Housewarming Potluck Seven Layer Bars

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee chips
1 1/2 cups coconut, toasted, reserving 1/2 cup of coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter in a 9" x 13" cake pan lined with two layers of tin foil (one going length wise the other cross wise) leaving the ends of the foil over the pan. Sprinkle crumbs over butter and stir until all the crumbs are coated with butter. Gently press crumbs down to make even crust. Top with remaining ingredients in the order given, holding out the 1/2 cup of reserved coconut for last layer Pour condensed milk over mixture and bake 25 minutes or until lightly brown at 350 degrees. Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes, remove bars using tin foil as handle and cut into squares.

Makes 24 bars

Friday, November 30, 2007

Presto Pasta Night: Happy 40th Chicken Parm

Ruth of Once Upon a Feast's highly successful weekly event Presto Pasta Night turns 40 this week! Make sure you head over there later today to see all the fabulous pasta dishes that everyone will have sent Ruth this past week. You'll surely find something in one of the round-ups to fix for dinner tonight or later this weekend.

To help Ruth celebrate I made one of my all time favourite classic American Italian restaurant dishes Chicken Parmigiana. I don't make this at home ever. Seriously too messy of a dish to make at home for me and besides, I never can get the breading for the chicken cutlet to look like the restaurant version. I end up with grease all over the stove and half the breading adhered to the bottom of the frying pan. So, I reserve this dish for when I'm out at a good "classic" American Italian restaurant. You know, the ones with the red velveteen wallpapers, gold flecked mirrors behind a bar with with a swag chandelier hanging over the candle wax encrusted Chianti bottle and a steady stream of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett on the muzak system.

However, I have recently discovered a treat at my local mom and pop grocery store/butcher shop, The Market Basket. They make the best breaded chicken cutlet I've ever had outside of a restaurant and they make them fresh each day for their deli sandwiches and to sell at the butcher counter for quick meal ideas.

I was standing at the butcher counter in the Market Basket chatting while I waited for one of the girls to get me a quart of heavy cream from the fridge case in back lamenting that I had no idea what to have for dinner other than toss some of my always ready in the freezer tomato sauce on top of the few left over cheese ravioli I had in the fridge. He laughed and said I should get one of the chicken cutlets and a package of mozzarella, heat the cutlet for 20 seconds in the microwave and then put it on top the ravioli and pour the sauce over and then zap it all for about another minute or so and I'd have almost homemade Chicken Parm that was just like you get at a good local Italian restaurant.

You know what, he was right!

Deli Counter Chicken Parm

Serves one

1 deli breaded chicken cutlet
1 cup cooked pasta (I used four cheese ravioli)
1/2 cup tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta and heat sauce. Drain pasta and set aside. In microwave, heat chicken cutlet for 20-30 seconds until just about hot. Plate pasta and place warmed chicken cutlet on top of cooked pasta, top with sauce and cheese. Microwave for 1 minute or until cheese is melted.

Serve with slice of garlic bread, small salad and glass of red wine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Surprising Things I Use from My Pantry

A little over a month ago I was in Cleveland to hang out with those two wild and crazy gals and my sisters of heart, Lisa and Helen for a weekend of baking, drinking, eating, and laughing. One of the weird things that happened that weekend was I discovered that I have this "twin" thing with Helen.

We were scaring each other with all the stuff we eat, foods we like, way we cook, and life experiences we had that were exactly the same or so close it was eerie. Almost from the minute I got into Lisa's cute purple car at the airport, Helen and I were finishing each other's sentences and having "Twilight Zone" moments. I was pretty sure that if we kept at it Lisa was going to tie large rocks around our necks and toss us into Lake Erie!

One of the many delicious things we cooked together that weekend was an incredible pot of corn chowder from the contents of Lisa's pantry. We wanted a hearty soup to serve with grilled cheese sandwiches made with the Asiago Cheese Bread we helped Lisa make. Rummaging around Lisa's fabulously stocked pantry, kitchen and fridge we discovered she had some great bacon from one of the butchers in the West Side Market, 1/2 a can of corn from the fridge, two cans of creamed corn, some grocery store grated Romano cheese (bought by accident), and lots of fresh herbs from Lisa's indoor herb garden. All the perfect ingredients needed for a great pot of chowder!

It was while we were in the kitchen chatting and each adding ingredients to the chowder and tasting for correct seasoning that we got into a discussion on what store-bought chicken stock was our "go to" chicken stock when we didn't feel like making it from scratch. Without hesitation and at exactly the same time Helen and I said "Emeril's" and burst out laughing. I think Lisa rolled her eyes at us and started laughing with us...

My favorite boxed stock

Now before you delete me from your reader let me tell you why I love this stock and keep at least one or two boxes in my pantry. The ingredients are exactly the same ingredients I use when I make it from scratch: chicken, sea salt, chicken fat, carrot, celery, onion, parsley and garlic and spices. There is a little corn starch added to make it stable for shelf life but there is no MSG and no long unpronounceable words; nothing but natural ingredients. There are no metallic tastes or strange flavours that don't suggest chicken stock. This stock actually tastes and looks like chicken stock, complete with little bits of chicken meat floating around. One last thing, Emeril's Chicken Stock is low in sodium at less than 600mg of sodium per serving; pretty darn good for non low-sodium chicken stock.

So, why am talking about this today? Because I think sometimes as food bloggers and passionate eaters, we all get tied up in knots of guilt when we take short cuts and/or use products that the self appointed food snobs out there would vilify us for using, especially when it is a celebrity chef's product. Does this mean that I don't think you should make your own stock? No, all I'm saying is it's OK if you are too busy to make your own stock all the time. It's OK if you need to take a short cut or two to put a good dinner on the table when your night is crazy or you get home late from work. What matters is if you are going to use a short cut product, make good choices and pick the ones that taste good and contain the best ingredients!

Besides, it's hectic out there right now and wouldn't you rather have the time to bake more goodies for your care packages than stir a pot of stock?

Three Crazy Gals Chowder (Or Pantry Corn Chowder)

1lb bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp fresh sage
1 Tbsp parsley
2 bay leaves
4 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 can regular corn (We used Green Giant Super Sweet Yellow and White Corn)
2 cans creamed corn
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup romano cheese
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Brown bacon in large frying pan. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add sage and parsley and saute for 30 seconds. Transfer contents of frying pan to stock pot. Add pototoes, and water and stock to cover potatoes. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer. Add bay leaves, creamed corn and corn and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add cream and romano cheese. Cook for 15 minutes until thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 big bowl servings

Monday, November 26, 2007

Daring Bakers: Unleashing My Daring Baker and Bread Shaping Skills with Tender Potato Bread

You probably woke up this morning thinking how good a slice of homemade bread toasted spread with some homemade jam would be with that cup of coffee for breakfast or a good leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich on soft chewy bread for lunch would be didn't you? Can't you just smell that bread baking? Can't you just taste it as you bite down on puffy, pillowy bread? Don't just want some right now? You want to know why you woke up craving bread?

Well because over 300 Daring Bakers made you want some bread that is why!!

Yup, we're back at it again this month and we've tossed the sugar, frosting, and pastry cream right out the window to bring you the definitely not Atkins friendly, Tender Potato Bread from "Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, courtesy of this month's challenge hostess, the always cooking up a storm with a smile and one of my favourite food bloggers, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups!

Now, I have to admit that when Tanna announced she had picked potato bread for this months challenge I was pretty excited because well, you see, I make potato bread at least once very two weeks. It is in my "don't get bored with bread" rotation and with the craziness of the holidays approaching I was relieved it was something I could do in my sleep versus the normal scald myself with molten sugar creation we have become famous for in the Blogsphere.

Then, I read Tanna's instructions that were part of her post on our secret blog titled, "Unleashing the Daring Baker in You":
"Being a Daring Baker is about trying new recipes, techniques and taking risks. It’s reaching just beyond my comfort zone. This is a Daring Baker Challenge, not a contest and not a competition because at its heart and soul is support and sharing the how to of the baking we do."

After reading what I think should be the Daring Baker creed, I couldn't just approach this challenge as a walk in the park but had to listen to my inner bread baking demon. Tanna had given everyone the option of shaping and flavouring the bread anyway we wanted and the unleashed Daring Baker in me took this opportunity to play with shapes that have always been on my list to try: British Cottage Loaf and a decorative loaf shape, the classic Wheat Sheath.

Before I get into the shape making, let me tell you about this wonderful dough. The Tender Potato Bread dough is a moist dough that at first will make a novice bread baker think you need to add more flour but resist the urge. Bread doughs that have mashed potatoes as part the ingredient will absorb the flour as it rests and this results in a really moist but silky dough. This recipe was lovely in that way. After about 30 minutes, I sunk my fingers into the dough and it was sticky but I could feel that when it finished with its rest it would be a heavy and thick but smooth dough. It didn't disappoint me.

The traditional British Cottage Loaf is a solid and dense bread formed by placing a smaller ball of dough on top of a larger ball of dough and then making vertical slashes on the loaves in a manner so the loaf rises and bakes in a almost "corkscrew" appearance. The Tender Potato Bread (TPB) dough lends itself to this shape because good potato breads are dense with tight texture. After the TPB dough rested for the first rise, I divided it into two dough balls, one large and one that was approximately 1/3 the size of the larger dough ball.

Then I pushed my finger through the center of the dough balls until I touched the counter. This merges the two dough balls together at the center and helps with the "corkscrew" shape that will result. Then I made the slashes.

(excuse the blueness of those two pictures, I think my digital camera is starting to have issues) Next I let the bread rise while I preheated the oven. I brushed the loaf with an egg wash and baked it until it was golden brown and the inside temperature was 190 degrees. The loaf came out perfectly shaped.

And when I sliced it after letting it cool completely, it had the texture that a good dense potato bread and a British Cottage Loaf should have and was the perfect compliment to a bowl of vegetable soup I had before I left for Michigan and Thanksgiving. I gave the remainder of the loaf to my trainer, C and her roommate K. I got an email from C the night before I left telling me that it was more than OK to make them more!

Next up was the Wheat Sheath. A Wheat Sheath is a decorative bread form in the shape of stalks of wheat normally gathered with a rope. It is intended to be used as centerpiece and not eaten. It is a difficult bread to form as there are lots of little pieces and the dough can dry out as you work with it, leading to flat and cracked looking bread instead of a wheat sheath.

You need to work from a pattern and I used a combination of the corn stalk pattern in Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads and a few other sources. Taking about 1/4 of the remaining dough, I rolled it out to about 1/4" thick and cut out the base in the form of a keyhole.

Then you take half the dough and make about three long strands about 20 inches long and twenty or twenty five little strands about 8" long. Set aside the little stands and cover them loosely so they don't dry out and braid the three 20 inch strands. Place the braid under the bottom part of the keyhole and leave the ends out and apart on either side.

Place the little strands in two layers in a random fashion. These form the "stalks" of the wheat. Fold the braid over the top so it forms a criss-cross.

Next, take the remaining dough and form the little ears of the wheat by making a long log and cut off little chunks in random shapes and sizes, rolling them into mini-torpedo and then making a little cut in the center with a razor blade. Attach these little ears to the top round of the keyhole shape by brushing the base with an egg wash. Start at the outside and circle around into the center alternating the direction the little ears of wheat lay on top of the outer layer. Let the bread rise for 30 minutes to an hour until the wheat ears puff up.

Brush the loaf with egg wash and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees then turn down the oven and let it bake for an additional hour at 200 degrees. This completely hardens the loaf. The bread should be a golden brown. If it starts to get too brown, cover it with a layer of foil so it won't over brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, overnight if possible. It is OK to leave this bread uncovered because you want all the moisture to leave the bread so it will hold up for several days or even weeks. If you want to keep the loaf permanently you can brush the loaf with a clear varnish. The bread will stay good looking for several years as long as it is stored correctly.

I took the wheat sheath home to be the center piece on the Thanksgiving table. It survived the trip very well tucked in my suitcase in a shirt box and packed between my clothes. When I put it on the table, everyone oohed and awed over it and I have to admit, it did look fabulous.

Thanks Tanna for helping me stretch my bread shaping skills. I'll definitely be making the British Cottage loaf again soon to eat and I am ready to try another decorative loaf too! And thanks also goes to my Daring Baker Sisters in Arms who baked with me on IM! We had quite a party a few Satudays ago and you know who you are! Hugs gals, you made the time go by so fast and I learned something neat from each of you!!

If you want to try this wonderful bread, the recipe for the Tender Potato Bread can be found at Tanna's post here and to see what all 300+ of my other Daring Baker brothers and sisters around the world did with their Tender Potato Bread dough go check them out on our blogroll.