Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: LB as a Randomizer

Mom's letting me have the computer a day early because tomorrow is going to be a computer free day in our house. Mom said she is losing hours on the computer on Saturdays and she wants to make one Saturday a month computer free. So, starting tomorrow, we are going to be computer free on the last Saturday of the month.

Since she is going out with friends in a little bit she woke me up early from my mid-afternoon nap in the sun

LB Napping with His Paws Over his Face

to chase some paper balls with names written on them.

She said that it was so a lucky reader of The Sour Dough could join her and some of her food friends cooking out of a book. I'm not sure about the book part but chasing after a paper ball was lots of fun.

LB Getting Ready to Select a Raffle Winner

I pounced on one and Mom grabbed it from me so she could write a nice letter to one of her readers.

LB Selecting A Raffle Winner

Me, I just batted the rest of the balls under the couch where Mom will have to get the broom out to find them. Personally, it serves Mom right if you ask me. She's going out and you know what that means.

I just hope she doesn't spend all of computer free Saturday in bed...

Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted this weekend by the kitties at Turkey Cats.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Book for Me and a Book for You!!

I think we've already established here at the Sour Dough that the very best meal of any day is brunch. If I had to choose only one meal type to eat for the rest of my life, it would be brunch. After all, at what other meal can you have all the crab legs you can eat, a fantastic Belgian waffle and a Bloody Mary all in one sitting?

So, when Cathy at A Blithe Palate and Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness wanted to know if I would like to be part of a Cookbook Spotlight on April 17 featuring Gale Gand's Brunch!


I said yes faster than you can mix a mimosa.

It is so exciting to come home from work and find a package containing a cookbook hot off the presses from the publisher. I typically run into the house, rip open the package and start "flagging" recipes that I want to try out. So far, since I got home this evening to find "Brunch!" at my doorstep, I think I've used all the red and half of the yellow flags in the little Post-it box. If I keep going, I'm going to have throw a block party in the next few Sunday mornings!

When I've done Cookbook Spotlights in the past, I've always felt kind of guilty that I haven't been able to share the fun with you, my readers. But, this go around I've been given an extra copy of "Brunch!" to give to one of you so you can join us!

Here's what you have to do to be in the running to be part of the Cookbook Spotlight:

Email me with your snail mail address at mary "at" breadchick "dot" com by noon East Coast time on Friday, March 27 telling me what is your favorite item on a brunch buffet. Don't forget to include the name and a link of your blog. If you don't have a blog, I'll be happy to host you for your spotlight of "Brunch!".

I'll have LB randomly pick one of the emails and the lucky person will receive their very own copy of Gale Gand's Brunch! to pick some recipes from, cook them, share them with friends and family and tell us all about their experience. So, start emailing me!

Look for the event on April 17th and the round up on April 20th.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm a Bit Obsessed

When I posted about my King Arthur flour collection I received quite a few emails about how many flours I have and how I store my flour to keep it all fresh. Tonight, I decided to do a complete inventory. I hadn't done that since 2007 when I posted about it here at The Sour Dough. I had nineteen bags of flour then.

So, how many do I have now?



Twenty-six different types of flour.

Part of My Flour Collection 09

Two of my flour bags are 50lb bags of flour, Sir Galahad and Organic Select Artisan from King Arthur (I get them from a bakery locally that occasionally lets me use their large ovens for my catering jobs). The other flours from King Arthur are AP, Whole Wheat, White Wheat, Pumpernickel, Semolina, Buckwheat, Extra Fancy Durum, French Style, Bread, European Artisan Bread, Sir Lancelot High Gluten, Pastry, and Queen Guinevere cake, and Self Rising flour.

I also have Bob's Red Mill Teff and Spelt flour, Hodgson Mill Pasta Blend and 50/50, White Lily Self Rising (for good Southern buttermilk biscuits), Arrowhead Mills Soy, Brown Rice, Barley and Rye.

Oh, then there is the Kenyon's Grist Mill cornmeal, because a girl has to have her Rhode Island Johnny Cakes.

Do you think there is 12 Step program for flour?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What Does.....

Three Root Beer Martinis, two Vodka and Tonics, and two Bass Beers equal?

One drunk Breadchick......

But the Veal Piccata was excellent!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blog Party #44: Brunch Again!

I missed last month's Blog Party at my good friend Stephanie's place over at Dispensing Happiness. But when I saw the theme for this month's party there was no way I was going to miss it because the theme is about my all time favorite meal, brunch!

Blog Party brunch again

When it comes to brunch I have three words: Corned Beef Hash. AND, since I have the leftovers of that fabulous corned beef from last night along with a few potatoes I had all the makings for the best damn corned beef hash I've ever had.


Using my grandfather's hunting camp hash recipe, I diced some onion and in a hot cast iron skillet I cooked the onion is 3 Tbsp of butter until they were just turning brown. Then I added the corned beef and potatoes, turned down the heat and let a nice crust form on the bottom. Turn the hash over, break up, and form pockets down to the pan, put a small dot of butter and when the butter has melted, crack open an egg into the hash clear space. Allow the egg to cook to just sunny side up, gently flip the egg over, count to 10 and remove the pan from heat.

Gently remove egg, place hash on plate around egg, sprinkle some fresh cracked pepper on top and serve with a hearty bread, like Anadama bread.

While we're talking Irish and hunting camp food, why not make some good Irish coffee to go with that hash.

blogparty irishcoffee

So, to the blog party I bring a platter of my grandfather's corned beef hash and thermos full of strong Irish coffee.

Hunting Camp Hash

Serves 8

2 lbs cooked corned beef, minced
8 medium just cooked potatoes, minced
2 large onions, diced
1 stick of butter
8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

In 12" skillet, over medium high heat melt 3/4 stick of butter and add onions. Cook until just browning. Add corned beef and potatoes, stir to combine with onions. Turn down heat and allow bottom of hash to brown.

Using a wooden spoon, make 8 little "pits" down to the pan, melt 1/2 tsp of butter in each area and crack an egg into each "pit". Allow egg to cook to Sunny Side Up and then gently turn it over. Remove pan from heat, gently plate egg, surround with some corned beef hash, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve to toast.

OH, for HEAVEN'S Sake....

What is THIS $%&@!!!!


On the very first day of Spring, when I was going to bring you pictures of this


and these


and this slice of yumminess


I get this instead. Snow flurries.


Got to love Spring in New England....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why I'm Making My Own Corned Beef From Now On

So, I'm two days late but tonight I finally had an opportunity to eat my corned beef and cabbage. Why so late? Well because I made my own corned beef.

Sometime last week, I got it in my head that this was the year I was going to make my own corned beef. What surprised me is I had never really seriously thought about doing it myself. I mean who has time to mess with the spices and then flipping a piece of brisket over a few times a day.

But then this came into my life.


Now, all I think about is making my own sausage, curing my own meat and of course, making more corned beef.

I used Penzy's Corned Beef spice mix

penzy's corned beef spices

instead of the recipe in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

but the recipe in the book and the listing of the spices on the bottle were surprising close. There are minimal kitchen pans and equipment needed to make corned beef: one 2 gallon Hefty zip bag, the crock and lid from the slow cooker. and a large sauce pan or small stock pan .

So, on Saturday I went to my local butcher and got a nice cut of brisket


and after making a brine with four cups of water, 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt,


and the Penzy Corned Beef Spice Mix by bringing the mixture to a boil and letting it cool, I put the brisket in the zip bag, poured the cooled brine mixture over the brisket,


sealed the bag, put it in the crock and inverted the lid to use the top knob to weight down the brisket.


Into the fridge it went where I let it sit for five days. After five days, the corning brine had made what is known as gray corned beef (cured without sodium nitrate, the ingredient that keeps the meat pink).


It is more commonly found in the Boston and New York areas and is also known as Irish Corned Beef. I think it is better than the red corned beef because it doesn't have the metallic aftertaste that the sodium nitrate seems to leave in my mouth.

Cooking my home cured corned beef was as easy as making it. Take one large crock pot, put corned beef brisket in, cover with quartered potatoes, halved carrots, and halved onions,


pour 2 cups of water into the crock pot and cook for about 10 - 12 hours on low. About 1 hour before serving, immerse the wedges of cabbage into the juices to cook.

Remove the corned beef brisket from the crock pot, put on a platter and surround by the veggies.


Serve with some Irish soda bread and you have the best St. Patrick's Day meal not to mention the best ruben sandwich for lunch the next day!

Home Cured Corned Beef

3 lb beef brisket (point or flat is fine, your choice)
small jar of Penzy's Corned Beef Spice Mix
4 cups Water
1 1/2 cups Kosher salt

In large sauce pan or small stock pot, bring to boil the water, spice mix and salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. In 2 gallon zip bag place brisket and pour corning brine over brisket. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place bag into large dish and weight down brisket so that it is completely submerged in brine. Refrigerate for five days. Rinse under cold water before cooking.

New England Corned Beef Dinner

Serves 6
3 lb corned beef brisket, gray if you can find it
6 medium all purpose potatoes, quartered
8 medium carrots, cut in half
2 medium onions, quartered
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 large head of cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

Place all the ingredients but the cabbage in a large slow cooker or crock pot, cook for 10 - 12 hours on low. One hour before serving, submerge cabbage wedges in the juices in the crock pot.

Serve brisket on a platter surrounded by the veggies

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bread Baking Babes Meet the King

King Arthur Flour that is!

You already know that King Arthur Flour and I have a long standing love affair. KA Flour is the flour I use in my kitchen for almost all of my baking.

Right now I have fourteen whole and partial bags of different KA flour in my fridge, my flour containers, and my freezer: AP, Whole Wheat, White Wheat, Pumpernickel, Semolina, Buckwheat, Extra Fancy Durum, French Style, Bread, European Artisan Bread,

BBB BBB More KA Flour I used for Pane Francese

Sir Lancelot High Gluten, Pastry, Queen Guinevere cake,

BBB KA Pane Francese: More flour, I didn't use it but....

and this little bag of Sir Galahad Artisan.

BBB KA Flour I used for Pane Francese

Yup, you can say I'm pretty much married to the King's flour.

So, when our host kitchen, Sara of I Like to Cook announced the bread for this month was King Arthur Flour's Pane Francese,

BBB logo March 2009 big

to say I did a little dance of joy around my kitchen would be a mild statement. I'm pretty sure PJ, Halley, Susan and the rest of the gang up there near the White River felt the ground shaking.

One the things I love the most about baking with The Babes, besides all the laughing, drinking, and support we give each other, is there isn't one of us who isn't afraid to challenge the rest of us with a new technique. The technique we are tackling this month is using a chef to make a levain.

A chef, in the venacular of bread making, is a little bit of left over dough from a previous bread or a liquid starter made by fermenting flour, water and sometimes fruit, that you use as the leavening agent. In my case, my chef is a bit of dough I made from my mother starter, Moe.

BBB KA Pane Francese: My Chef

Using leftover dough from the previous day's baking is a common way that the mild sourdoughs of Europe are made.

To make the levain, you tear up the chef

BBB KA Pane Francese: Torn Up Chef

and using warm water or milk, you dissolve the chef

BBB KA Pane Francese: Dissolving Chef

add flour and make another stiff dough (like we do in the Pane Francese) or a sponge. After it rises until double, about five to six hours, you have what is called a "first stage levain".

BBB KA Pane Francese: Sponge

You repeat this to achieve a second stage levain by using all the first stage levain and more flour and water.

BBB KA Pane Francese: Gluten Strands in Dough
(Look at the gluten strands in my second stage!)

You save a bit of this second stage to act as a chef for future breads. After you've wrapped up your new chef, you are ready to make the dough and set it aside for a nice long rise.

BBB KA Pane Francese Dough Ready To Rise

Normally, this stage is six to eight hours so, when I use a chef/levain method of making bread, I try to time it so that the dough can rise overnight and I can form the loaves in the morning. This means the loaves have the whole day to rise and I have fresh baked sourdough bread for dinner.

But, this time, my dough got a really, really nice long extended rise; like a three day rise! There's a pretty funny story here that will illustrate what a forgiving dough this is and why a long slow rise works so well for this style of bread making.

You see, I made the dough last Saturday and, as usual, put it in my oven (off) to spend the night in a nice warm draft free place. The next morning, I got up checked on it, and set it aside because I had a birthday cake to bake for our receptionist at work. After the oven had cooled off from the cake baking, I put the dough back in the oven to clean up the kitchen, intending to form the loaves and bake them before going to bed so I could bring one into work the next day.

But, before I got to work on the next stage of the Pane Francese, I started to feel kind of feverish and achy. By the time I was done cleaning up the kitchen my ears were ringing and I was feeling down right awful. So off to bed I went, where I stayed for the rest of the day and all day Monday, my poor Pane Francese dough just sitting in its oven home.

After spending all day Sunday and Monday in bed, I was feeling almost human (and I have that project from hell still going on) so I went back to work on Tuesday. At about 1pm I had a moment of "clarity". I remembered that my dough for the Pane Francese was still in my oven!

Luckily, I live less than one mile from work so I rushed home, expecting to have the dough blob that ate East Norwalk living in, around and under my oven. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that while the dough had dislodged the top of container and was starting to make a march for the oven door, it had stayed pretty well contained and was covered with the most lovely large bubbles of gas.

BBB KA Pane Francese After 3 day rise

I floured my counter, poured the dough out,

BBB KA Pane Francese Fully Risen Dough

and, since it had been sitting and rising for so long, decided that support for the dough during the last rise was called for as the gluten in dough was probably relaxed beyond being able to support the weight of the dough during this shaping rise.

Besides this gave the opportunity to use two things I don't use all that much when I make bread, my batard pan

BBB KA Pane Francese Batard Ready to Rise

and my brotform.

BBB KA Pane Francese Banneton

When I got home from work at 8pm that night I had two really nice risen loaves of bread all ready to bake.

Tossing my unglazed quarry tiles, you know that ones that caused me to get banned from the Watertown, MA Home Depot for taking pictures of, into the oven I set about preheating the oven. Sidebar here: When I'm going to be using the quarry tiles, I tend to preheat my oven at 500 degree for 30 minutes and then turn the oven down to the required temperature which in this case is 450 degrees. I use this pre-heating time to also give these types of breads a boost in the last few minutes of their rise by placing them on top of my stove and using the heat radiating from the oven.

Because my oven is so small I had to bake in two stages, batard first

BBB KA Pane Francese Batard

and then boule.

BBB KA Pane Francese Boule

Not surprisingly, my boule deflated when I unmolded it from the brotform but this dough had great oven spring and it puffed right back up. Thirty five minutes later I had nice golden brown bread with crisp tops.

Slicing into them after they had cooled completely revealed an airy crumb in the batard

BBB King Arthurh Pane Francese Batard sliced

and these wonderfully craggy perfect holes in the boule.

BBB King Arthur Flour Pane Francese Boule Sliced

The taste was nice and mild, exactly like the bread I eat when I'm in France and Belgium.

Thanks Sara for chosing such a great bread that tested our bread making techniques this month. Thanks King Arthur Flour for having such a fantastic product in your flour and for having that bread/baking/flour porn site you call The Baker's Banter. I find inspiration not to mention my daily caloric intake of sugar there almost daily.

To see how the rest of my fellow Babes fared this month with the King Arthur Flour Pane Francese, go check out their blogs by following the links on my sidebar. If you want to be a Bread Baking Buddy with the Babes this month, go check out Sara's post for all the details. Since she is Host Kitchen, she's in charge of when you will need to have your bread baked.

Pane Francese
From The King Arthur Flour Company

Yeild: two loaves

Note: You will need almost two full days to make this bread.

Creating the First-Stage Levain
chef (1/4 cup leftover dough, or 1/4 cup sourdough starter, unfed)
1/4 cup warm (75 - 80 degrees), chlorine-free water
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

Let the chef soften in the warm water, then whisk out any lumps. Mix in the flour until yo8u've formed a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes. The chef (now called a levain) should be moist but firm. Place the levain in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place till doubled. This will take 5 to 6 hours.

Second-Stage Levain
All of the First-Stage levain (from above)
1/2 cup warm, chlorine-free water
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

"Refresh" the levain by placing it in a medium-sized bowl, chopping it into small pieces, and adding the water and 1/2 cup of the flour, stirring till smooth. Add the remaining flour gradually to create a stiff dough. Knead the dough for several minutes, then return it to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 3 to 5 hours, till it doubles in size. Punch down the risen levain, and reserve 1/4 cup as your next chef. (Let the piece ferment at room temperature for 3 hours, then wrap it in plastic and store it in the fridge. It'll develop a hard crust; that's OK.)

all of the second-stage levain (from above)
3/4 cup warm, chlorine-free water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

Chop the levain into small pieces, and mix them with the water, stirring till they begin to dissolve. Add the salt, then 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking unbearably.

(Note from Breadchick, I used a combination of three King Arthur flours for my dough, 1 cup Bread flour, 1/2 cup European Artisan Bread flour, and almost 3/4 cup of French style flour. It was rather humid in my kitchen on the day I made the dough so I needed a bit more flour to get the dough to come to the right consistency)

Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours.

Cut the dough into 2 pieces, and shape each piece into a round or oval. Transfer the loaves to a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or to a floured banneton; cover with a heavily floured cloth, and allow them to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until they're almost doubled in bulk.

Don't slash or glaze the loaves.

Bake the bread in a preheated 450°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they're a deep, golden brown. Allow to cool completely before slicing

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: Oh Mom's Aching Head...

They say the mind is the first thing that goes when you get older but if you ask me, I'd say it's not age but going out with two sets of friends in one night and drinking too much red wine!

LB in Spring Sun

You see, Mom just woke up all grumpy because I was meowing in her face at 6AM. She got up and fed me and then went back to bed saying something about her head hurting.

When she came home at 1AM this morning, she was in a good mood and it was I who was grumpy because she came home after work, gave me some food and then went out again to play with her friends from work.

Then she met her good friend Erica and a friend of Erica's from Boston at The Ginger Man in Sono (South Norwalk), where they had drinks and good conversation.

When she came home, she gave me more food and went to bed. Leaving me to run through the house meowing in protest because normally she spends time with me at night. So, I figured if she wasn't going to spend time with me I wasn't going to let her get any sleep.

I don't think it worked because when I hopped up on the bed to see if she was awake she was drooling with her head smooshed up in between the pillows. She sure looked funny. Of course, that is one of my favorite ways to sleep.

LB Sleeping in "Comfy" Position

We're hosting Weekend Cat Blogging here at The Sour Dough.

Or rather "I'm" hosting Weekend Cat Blogging because Mom is sitting at the breakfast bar holding her head and muttering something about the "hair of the dog". I don't think this is Weekend Dog Blogging but we're pretty open minded in the cat world, and even dogs are ok...most of the time.

If you want to join us this weekend, just leave us a comment with a link to your WCB post.

I'll be doing a round up on Monday as Mom has a very important post for tomorrow; if she can stand the sound of the computer keys clicking....

3/15 Update - WCB #197 Round Up:

Mom's feeling much better but she's been cooking up a storm all weekend in the kitchen. Lots of good things!!

We had six kitties stop by and see us this weekend.

Starting out with our good friend Luna telling us about the neat new name she has.

catsynth luna_scritches_july_2008

We don't have any special names like that but sometimes Mom calls us by our full name, "Little Bastard" instead of LB. See not as musical as "Queen of the Night" at all!

The next one of our friends to come and say "hi" was Butch.


He and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to how to spend the afternoon.

Next Patchouli shows off his stalking skills.


I don't get to go outside anymore but sometimes I dream about walking through the tall grass. These days though, sleeping by the warm fire like Patchouli sounds much nicer.

Our good friend Marushka showed that this weekend really was made for napping


anywhere that looks comfy.

Meowza was outside announcing all sorts of good kittie events.


I think standing that way is the best.

Finally Samantha and Mr. Tigger came by to say hi!

WCB: SamanthamrtiggerJPG

Mom doesn't let me up on the counter but I'll bet she doesn't know I hop up there and do the dance of the seven jiggies when she isn't around. They're hosting next weekend too!

Thanks everyone for stopping by and seeing us this weekend.