the stockings were hung by the chimney with care: a hand-knit family tradition

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My stocking for baby Matthew on the left, the stocking Joan made for me when I was born is second from the left and the others she made for my husband and daughters.

Every year as we decorate the house for Christmas, our stockings become a focal point.  While I am sure that we are not the only family that decorates with Christmas stockings, ours are truly special and they are part of a family tradition that dates back more than 50 years.  Each member of the family, mine and all of my cousins and their families, has a hand knit stocking with their name on it.  My mother’s sister, my Aunt Joan, knit one for each of us as we were born and then as each of us married, our spouses were also given stockings.  It became a right of passage in a way, if you were gifted a hand-knit stocking from Joan, it was a big welcome to the family!

The tradition continued on and as the grandchildren came, so did the stockings.  When my aunt passed away, we all wondered who would continue the tradition of hand-knitting the stockings!  My mother, who is a knitter herself, was not up to the task; she simply did not think she could make one due to the color changes.  Knitting with multiple bobbins of 6-8 colors per row can be tricky and if you have color blindness, it can be nearly impossible.  What am I talking about?  My mother actually has color blindness which is something that men are more commonly affected by.  Needless to say, the tradition of a hand knit personalized stocking for each new family member was in question and it was quite possible that it was finished.

However, as my mother will tell you, I am not one to shy away from a challenge and I quickly offered to make one when one of Joan’s sons, my cousin Tim and his wife Laura, welcomed Sara into their family.  Can I just say that I had no idea what I was getting myself into?  Knitting with bobbins and lots of color changes…Had I lost my mind?  This was so beyond my knitting skill!  Somehow, I managed to complete that stocking for Sara.  Then came one for Ed, the new husband of my cousin Mary, Joan’s only daughter.  To get some practice, I decided to knit a set for my closest friend, her husband and their son.  With each one, my skills improved and the process became easier.  Then, nothing.  No additions to the family until late this summer.

In September, another of Joan’s sons, Chris and his wife Rosemary, welcomed little Matthew into the family.  Suddenly, I had a stocking to make!  Quickly, I went out to purchase the needed yarn to make the stocking.  Sounds easy enough but truth be told, yarn colors change just like fashion trends change and finding the colors I needed was not easy and in the end, I went with colors that are notably different from all of the stockings Joan and I had previously made.

IMG_2076My stocking is over 50 years old now, and yes, it pains me to say that.  When Joan made mine, she used wool and angora and over the years, moths have damaged it.  Several years ago, I had to have mine repaired because moth larvae had eaten patches of the angora.  These days, the acrylic yarns available make avoiding wool and angora pretty easy which means that the stocking I knit will not become a target for moth larvae.  To make the beard and fur trim, I used a ball of Bernat Boa yarn and it was a little challenging to work with.  Not only is it fluffy and bulky, it gives off a lot of fibers and it is difficult to actually see the individual stitches which is an important part of following a graph to knit a pattern like this one.  In the future, I may try to find a yarn that is a little less textured.

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Every knitter using the same pattern is bound to have different results.  Like handwriting, how you hold the needles and the tension you keep on the yarn can have many different results.  The different yarns can only further change things.  All I know is that it is a tradition I am glad to continue and I hope to keep knitting them as the family grows.  It makes the holiday a little more special to look at the collection of stockings hanging in our house and I can only hope my work lives up to Joan’s!


IMG_2086Before I sent the newest member of the family his stocking, I hung it from the mantle in our living room with the collection of stockings Joan knit for us.  Looking at the stockings hanging there together, knowing that I made one, a certain feeling of satisfaction came over me.  More importantly, I was excited to send it on its way so that Chris and Rosemary could hang a stocking for Matthew.  Then a thought occurred to me, I missed one.  It seems that someone in that small family is missing a stocking; don’t worry, Rosemary, I’m on it!

Merry Christmas everyone!

off the shelf: quick crescent rolls from the fannie farmer baking book

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My name is Alisa and I have a lot of cookbooks.  When I go to thrift stores and antique shops, I buy more cookbooks.  In my house, I have a wall of shelves dedicated to just cookbooks…This is how I imagine a 12 step program for cookbook addicts might start.  First admitting that I have a lot, perhaps too many cookbooks.  And yes, I could say that I have too many, but when you start collecting a specific item, quickly amassing large quantities is what generally happens.  Truth be told, of all the things I could get involved with, collecting cookbooks is pretty tame and if I take them off the shelf and use them, delicious things happen.  One of the cookbooks I have had the longest, and judging by the condition, used often is a copy of the Fannie Farmer Baking Book.  It is also one that I highly recommend to new bakers looking for a starting point because the recipes are simple, easy to follow and pretty foolproof.

What many people do not realize is that Fannie Farmer really was a trained cook as well as an author of several cookbooks.  She studied at the Boston Cooking School in the late 19th century and eventually took the role of school principal before venturing out on her own by opening a school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cooking.  Although her main interest was proper nutrition and how it affected the health and well-being of the ill, what she hoped she would be most remembered for, it is the The Fanny Farmer Cookbook that most people today associate with her.   There are two books featuring her name, The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, which she actually wrote and was revised, updated and renamed The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by the late Marion Cunningham and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, also written by Marion Cunningham.  While Fannie’s name may be in the title of the baking book, she never actually wrote a book dedicated to baking or desserts.   Ms. Cunningham is solely responsible for making the book what it is; a master collection of baking recipes that every baker should own.  As hard as it is to believe, when I am developing recipes, I will pull this book off the shelf and read or make a recipe in it because I know it will work.  Other times, when I just want a recipe that is foolproof and guaranteed to please a crowd, this is my “go to-I don’t need to think about it” book.

With this in mind, I pulled the book off the shelf with the idea of making some dinner rolls.  There is nothing worse than messing around with a bread recipe, spending a day or even two to make a batch of dough, only to have it completely flop.  Since I was short on time, I went with a recipe I knew would work perfectly, the simply titled Dinner Rolls.  Ms. Cunningham describes them as her “favorite dinner rolls, soft and barely sweet” and I couldn’t agree more.  They were quick to mix, easy to shape and baked up beautifully.  The recipe includes many options for shaping the rolls; pan rolls, crescents, clover-leaf, fan-tan or mini rolls.  Crescents were what I wanted, and I was quite pleased with the results.  If you do not have a copy of this book, get one; this recipe is one of the reasons why I keep this book on my shelf.

Dinner Rolls
IMG_2071 makes about 24 rolls

1 1/4 cup milk, warmed

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a bowl, stir together the milk, sugar, salt and butter.  Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and let stand to dissolve and become active.  Add the egg and 2 cups of flour and beat it vigorously for a minute or two.  Add enough flour to make a manageable dough.  Knead the dough in the mixer or by hand on a well floured surface until smooth or elastic.  Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until doubled.  Punch the dough down and shape as desired.  Place the shaped rolls onto a baking pan and let rise until double.  Preheat the oven to 400 and bake the rolls for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on a rack for a few minutes before serving.

To shape crescents:

Melt 6 tablespoons butter.  Divide the dough in half and set half aside, covered.  Roll the other piece into a circle that is about 12″ in diameter and 1/8″ thick.  Brush the dough with some of the melted butter.  Cut the dough into 12 equal wedges.  Take one wedge of dough, starting with the wide end, roll it up and pinch the tail to the roll to keep it from opening during baking.  Place 12 rolls on a pan lined with parchment paper or silpats, tail side down.  Space the rolls at least 1″ apart, brush them with butter, cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap.  Repeat the process with the other ball of dough.  Let the rolls rise until double and bake as directed in the recipe above.

Serve the rolls fresh from the oven with butter or jam or butter and jam…They reheat nicely too and also make lovely rolls for little sandwiches!

IMG_2066off the shelf posts feature cookbooks from my personal collection.

Mad About Chocolate; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Cookies at Christmas are a given.  How can you not bake them?  What would Santa think if he slid down the chimney to find out you didn’t bake him cookies, chocolate cookies, with minty ganache???  Looks like I will find out since I had to sit this round out.  Hopefully, my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bakers can forgive me because even though they sounded amazing, I was too busy to bake up a batch.  Truth be told, the thought of having an entire batch of chocolate cookies with a mint ganache filling and topping in the house terrified me; how would I be able to stay away from them???

Luckily for me, I came up with a better idea.  The contributing baker, Marcel Desaulniers is a bit of a legend here in Williamsburg.  For years, he was responsible for the desserts at the landmark Trellis restaurant, but two years ago, he opened his own shop, Mad about Chocolate.  Knowing I did not have the time or the willpower for these cookies, I took a trip to the shop and picked up a few sweets to indulge in.

Centrally located near the Historic Village, Merchants Square and the College of William and Mary, the shop is easy to find and so is the parking.  Make a trip in and see the sights and take a short visit to the shop and refuel!
IMG_2319So far, I am having a hard time finding anything I do not like about the historic district.  You can wander the streets of the colonial villiage and find plenty of shops and restaurants in Merchants Square and everywhere you go, there are places to sit and enjoy the view.  While I do realize this is a tourist destination, so far, I have not encountered crowding and congestion that make it unpleasant, even during August, it was busy but not impossible to get around.

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While chocolate is the specialty of the house at Mad about Chocolate, the menu does include a few savory options, be sure to check the special board out front on your way in.

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Don’t let the sizes of the showcases fool you, while they are small, they are stocked and if you ask me, less is better-they do not overload the cases meaning what you see is freshly baked.
IMG_2306Need a gift?  All of Chef Desaulniers books are available, I personally have a copy of Desserts to Die For on my book shelf.  The cute seasonal gift packaging makes even a gift of cookies seem extravagant.

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While I was in the shop, the man himself came in to chat with the staff.  Of course I had to say hello and in the process, told him his recipe was the one chosen for today’s post by the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.  It was a pleasure to meet him and while I am sure he was busy, he took a few minutes to speak with me.

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The indoor seating area is very colorful and the artwork is all available for purchase; some of the artwork is by Connie Desaulniers.
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Each of the tabletops is made with a different colorful design that appears to be a glass mosaic of sorts.


IMG_2325But let’s not forget why I went to the shop in the first place:  cookies, lots of cookies.  Starting at the top, bourbon oatmeal, tribe (a William and Mary tribute) and the infamous black mamba.  Resting on top, a synergy bar.  So let’s take a moment to admire them…

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This right here, my new favorite decadent treat.  Ordinarily, I do not like oatmeal combined with chocolate, but this, a dark chocolate candy bar with (oatmeal) granola, cacao nibs, chocolate covered coffee beans and coffee is absolutely perfect.

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Think they are ordinary cookies?  Look at the size of that-and it is just half of it!  The bourbon oatmeal is loaded with dried cranberries and there is nothing ordinary about them.  
IMG_2338College team names are funny and William and Mary teams are known as The Tribe.  While I do not know the history behind the name, I can say this, if you are not a chocolate fan, the Tribe cookie is for you.  It has a bit of lemon zest, pistachios and white chocolate in it and it is every bit as decadent as the others.

Since I was losing light on this grey, dismal day, I did not take a photo of the black mamba but all you need to know is that it is dark and chocolatey almost to a fudge brownie extent and chock full of walnuts and pecans.  It is also still in the bag-I could not take even one more bite of cookie…  This could be a dangerous situation for me; the shop is pretty close to our new house and I can easily get there when I need a chocolate fix; remind me to buy a bicycle…

To learn more about Mad about Chocolate, visit the website.  To see what the other bakers came up with, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

skillet fried chicken cakes; putting leftovers to work

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Tis the holiday season and days full of hunting and gathering.  Shopping for gifts, planning for parties, wrapping gifts, writing cards and so on.  Often, dinner is an after thought and most of us grab something from the market or a favorite take-out spot that we can dump on the table with little to no effort.  When the stress associated with getting everything done, the cookies, the gift wrapping and the decorating, who wants to make dinner?

 

Even so, a nice dinner on the table at the end of a busy day is just what I want and now that there are just two of us to cook for, I actually look forward to the task.  Generally, helpful hints for the homemaker (laughable isn’t it-me a homemaker?) call for cooking large batches of stuff and serving it all week long or they instruct you to divide it up and freeze it for days like this when cooking is not an option.  That is a sound plan and good advice, just not for me.  When I am faced with eating my way through two gallons of chili or a ginormous pan of baked pasta, I get tired of it quickly.  More often than I care to admit, good food ends up putrefying in the back of the fridge.

 

One way I have managed to get a menu together that covers the whole week is to pick a few ingredients, purchase them in bulk and prepare different dishes from them so that even though I am essentially eating the same thing, there is enough variety to keep me from getting bored.  Remember my recent series on One Bag of Kale?  A large, one pound bag of kale appeared in four separate meals and no boredom was detected!  This time around, I used a whole, roasted chicken, two of them actually, to fill my menu.  We feasted on soup, creamy chicken and vegetables over rice and a new favorite dish, Skillet Fried Chicken Cakes.

 

 

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As you may know, we recently relocated to Williamsburg, Virginia and if you are familiar with the geography of the area, you also know that we are a hop, skip and short trip across a couple of bridges from the Chesapeake Bay.  In culinary terms, that means we are smack dab in the middle of oyster and crab country.  Amazingly enough, I am not a huge fan of either one.  Mussels, absolutely!  Calimari, duh, I am Italian, calimari is a given here.  Lobster, now you’re talkin!!!  Crab, meh; I’ll stick with shrimp and lobster.  Oysters, eeewww-can’t even think about them.  However, I can shuck ‘em all day long thanks to my first real job after graduating from the CIA.

 

My husband, on the other hand, has a thing for crab cakes, specifically Maryland Crab Cakes.  Since I do not eat them, I naturally assumed from the name that the cakes were made of blue crabs from the nearby Chesapeake Bay.  However, the difference between other crab cakes and Maryland crab cakes is huge.  In this part of the country, folks like their cakes to be made from fresh crab and little else.  They like them large and pan fried in patties that are so tender they barely stay together and are eaten with little more than a bit of remoulade sauce.   Not being a fan of remoulade sauce or it’s low brow cousin, supermarket tartar sauce in a jar, I never even consider ordering the crab cake special in a restaurant, much less making them at home!

 

Oddly enough, the dish does sound tasty to me, except for the crab part, and it had me wondering, if we can call tuna the chicken of the sea, could we let a chicken take a deep sea dive?  Would replacing the crab meat with freshly pulled chicken meat work in a crab cake recipe?  You bet it does and despite my enthusiasm for this compromise, I was skeptical that my husband would agree.  The long and short of it all, he devoured them and did not even miss the crab.  Success!

 

But how can this be a time saver?  Easy, next time you are going to roast a chicken, roast two or three if you can.  Pull one (or two) chicken(s) to pieces, separate out the meat, discard the skin and save the bones and carcass for soup.  Weigh out (yes, weigh it out-a scale is easy to find and surprisingly affordable!!!) a pound of pulled meat for a batch of cakes and set aside the remaining meat for soup, white chili or another of my favorites, chicken and black bean tacos.  You can freeze it until you need it or spend a day in the kitchen making everything-personally, I prefer to freeze components and then thaw and cook them as needed.  The recipe is quick to make and easily doubled if you want to plan ahead; just freeze the cakes and thaw and cook when you want to serve them.

 

Make these cakes as long as one day ahead, cook them when you plan to serve them and put them on the table with your favorite buns (kaiser rolls for me if I am buying them, homemade otherwise!) and fixings, a local brew and secretly wish for the chaos season to end and for  summer to arrive…

Skillet Fried Chicken Cakes

IMG_1806Recipe is adapted from one that appeared in Food and Wine and was written by Andrew Zimmern.  See the original recipe here.  And for the crab lovers out there, just prepare the recipe as written in the link, I am pretty sure Chef Zimmern knows what he is talking about here!

Makes 8 cakes, serves about 4

 

1 pound cooked, pulled chicken meat

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 tablespoon mustard, preferably whole grain

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1-2 teaspoons Creole spice mix

1 teaspoon hot sauce

3/4 cup cracker crumbs, about 20 saltines

Oil for frying

Buns, sandwich fixins, pickles

 

Pull the chicken meat so that it is shaggy and rough, cubes will not bind!  In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, worcestershire, spice mix and hot sauce.  Add the chicken meat and the cracker crumbs and gently mix to combine but take care not to mash it to a paste.  Divide the mixture evenly and form patties.

Pour enough oil into a large skillet so that the entire surface is covered by an 1/8th of an inch over medium heat.  Carefully add the cakes and fry on one side until browned.  Turn the patties and fry the other side until nicely browned and hot in the center.  Lift the cakes from the oil and set them on a tray lined with brown paper or paper towels, serve immediately.

 

For the OCD, make your own buns, I do when I can and freeze them, find my recipe here

 

 

the rugelach that won over France; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_2207I have been baking rugelach for at least 25 years.  It all started when I worked in a bakery just north of Sausalito, California.  We did everything by hand there and the rugelach dough was rolled out into large circles, topped with butter, cinnamon sugar, chopped walnuts and currants.  Each round was cut into 12 wedges and then rolled up into crescents.  We made them by the hundreds and after the first taste, I was hooked.

Over the years, I have made rugelach to sell in my bakery and to give as gifts during the holidays.  While the purpose of making them has changed from time to time, one thing hasn’t, the filling; I always made them with the same combination of ingredients that I first learned years ago.  Whenever I would see them for sale with jam fillings, I was always so excited by the choices but in reality, disappointed by the results.  I’ve always thought that cinnamon sugar, walnuts (or pecans) and currants make the perfect filling but this week’s recipe for the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers put that filling combination to the test.

Upon reading the ingredient list for the filling, I was completely skeptical, a little worried actually; my mother was visiting and she would be tasting them too.  While sharing rugelach with your mom sounds harmless, keep in mind that rugelach is one of her favorite things and she likes them the way I make them; no filling upgrades needed or wanted.  How could I possibly dump chocolate, coconut and cherries into her idea of perfection?  So I compromised.  After mixing up a double batch of dough so I could send mom home with a plate of goodies, I rolled out the first portion with cinnamon sugar, pecans and currants.  For the second portion, I combined cinnamon sugar, coconut and chocolate chips.

The directions call for rolling out a very thin sheet of dough that is 12″x6″ and then topped and shaped into a foot long spiral that is about an inch or so thick as well as tall.  If you cut them as instructed, you get a lot of single bite pastries making this a great treat to give as gifts or share at a cookie swap.  But for rugelach connoisseurs like us, bite sized wasn’t going to cut it.

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The secret to perfect rugelach, use lots of flour to roll it out but brush it off both sides or it will make them taste doughy.

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As I mentioned, I compromised, I added currants rather than cherries but kept the coconut, pecans and chocolate and spread them over a liberal dusting of cinnamon sugar.

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In my opinion, the more pronounced the spiral, the better the flavors blend.  To achieve this, I rolled out the rectangle of dough a little wider so that mine was about 12″x 8″ and only about 1/8″ thick.  Despite this fact, the dough was still cool enough to work with and it rolled up easily.

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One step I completely eliminated was to freeze the rolled and filled dough.  Honestly, that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.  With my spiral still on the table, I quickly cut it into thick slices, on the bias.  This change affected the yield greatly; my batch of dough only made about 18 thick slices.

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One other change I made, no egg wash.  The leftover melted butter wasn’t going to be wasted on my watch and I brushed it over each roll along with a dusting of cinnamon sugar before they went into the oven.

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Once again, the recipe called for baking the rolls at 400F and that worried me.  When I prepared the last Baking Chez Moi recipe, Cranberry Crackle Tart, the instructions to bake at 400F turned out badly for me.  Perhaps the oven in our new home is a little hot, or maybe Dorie’s oven is a little cool, either way, I wasn’t taking any chances and I baked them at 375F.  Oddly enough, at this temperature, they baked in the time called for in the recipe.  Looks like I will be paying close attention to the oven temperature in the recipes from now on!

IMG_2199And as Dorie suggests, the perfect companion to a cup of tea on a dreary winter day.

To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and if you like, buy one of the two books we are baking from and bake along with us!

mixed starter bread; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_2112This is the Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia tale of two breads; the train wreck version and the fingers crossed I hope it works version.

Bread baking has always been one aspect of my career that I completely lack confidence in.  There are so many variables and so many ways for it to go wrong and yes, baking in general is often a disaster waiting to happen, but bread is where I have had so many more failures.  As you know, baking is science oriented and when you add a living creature, yeast specifically, there are just so many more rules that must be followed.  In my world, a baguette has always fallen into the buy it not bake it category because I have never achieved good results when baking one at home.

So it was with the greatest of expectations and hopes that I set off to bake this bread.  When I read the instructions, I saw that I could actually make four different shapes if I followed the recipe, and I was determined to make at least three of the shapes.  But, as the Steinbeck wrote, “even the best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry.”

First mistake; no bread dough to make the starter with.  Not a problem, I subbed a small amount (1/4 cup) of my homemade starter.  While this sounds good in theory, it made the starter very wet and it set the stage for more problems as I followed the recipe.  In the final rise stage, my dough was simply too soft and probably could have used another half cup of flour to make up for the added moisture in the starter I used.  However, the mistakes are not all mine.  Did anyone else notice the rather large discrepancy between the photo tutorial on page 116 and the directions in the recipe on page 117?

Give me a moment to vent and then I shall stumble down off my soapbox.  First let me state that I admire Dorie greatly.  She has helped put women bakers up in front of the crowd and to show the world that yes, women can be pastry chefs too.  She has in a lot of ways done for baking what women like Alice Waters and Julia Child did for cooking as far as convincing the world that women can do this and do it just as well if not better than men.  But editing is editing and as a published cookbook author, I can say that if the words under the photo do not match the words in the recipe, we’ve got a problem.  While this may have been fixed in later editions, my $3 flea market find is actually a first edition and I had a major mishap as a result.

My complaint is simple, step 3 of the photo tutorial instructs you to fold the dough down again (the folding process starts in step 2) and to seal the seam…it then goes on to tell you to repeat this process once or twice to form a short log shape with a tight skin.  That right there is it, one of the largest factors that my bread dough simply spread out rather than rise up and why it was not possible to get it off the floured towel without deflating it.  If you read the recipe, it only tells you to complete the folding and rolling once.  The tight skin is crucial not only to the success of a crispy, flaky skin but to the shape and the height of the loaf as well.

After having nurtured this dough along for 2 days, arranging our day around the baking schedule and then having such a flop that I had to go out and buy bread for dinner, I was truly annoyed with myself for not succeeding.  As I dumped half of the batch in the trash, I made the decision to save a piece of the dough and start again.  Then, while standing there in my kitchen peeling the rest of the dough off of a floured towel, I could not bring myself to tossing it in the trash.  Stubborn determination had me grabbing my basket and shaping the remaining dough.  The dough was soft and a little sticky at first but as I worked at shaping it into a smooth ball, I saw a change in the texture, it was no longer soft and shapeless and it was now tight and structured.  It rose beautifully in the basket and when it had doubled, I dumped it out on to the baking peel, slashed the top, slid it onto the heated stone in the oven and poured the water into the pan in the bottom of the oven.  Voila!  Picture perfect bread, and a lesson learned!

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The crust was thin and crispy, just like a good baguette and despite the many missteps and the extra rise time, it has absolutely no sour taste.

IMG_2141Just look at the interior of the loaf, all of the open bubbles you would expect after reading the recipe, but not the photo tutorial as it does not advise you to retain the open structure and air bubbles by handling it gently and not to deflate or mash it.  In the end, I am better prepared to make a baguette and my second batch is nearing the final rise.  Stay tuned fellow bakers, I will post additional photos when I get a decent loaf!

To see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers came up with, visit the website.

cranberry crackle tart; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Cranberries are a vital part of the holiday season for many Americans.  In my family, we cook them up into a sweet sauce flavored with oranges, vanilla bean and spices and the kids eat them by the bowl full.  It is one tradition that I really will miss this holiday season.  We relocated from Nashville to Williamsburg and our family group that gathered together each Thanksgiving and Christmas is now separated by nearly 700 miles.  Even so, I couldn’t resist buying a bag or two, or four of cranberries and had to find a tasty way to use so many fresh cranberries.  Thankfully, this recipe used more than half of a bag, and now I only have 3 and a half more bags in the fridge…

The recipe gives you some good options and I decided to test some of them out.  With two different dough recipes to choose from,  I decided to mix up a batch of the sweet tart dough and as I mixed it, I chose to follow the recipe suggested in the “Bonne Idee” sidebar; it gave the option of using a small portion nut flour in place of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe.  It was quick to mix up in the food processor but I really think the amount of dough it produces was about double what was needed to make the pie shell.  As a result, I formed a patty with the leftover dough and tucked it away in the freezer.

As a person who literally has rolled out hundreds of pie shells by hand, this dough was very pleasant to work with and I did not have any sticking or crumbling or tearing.  It was so easy to work with that I had the crust rolled and in the pan in a matter of minutes.  Where I had issues, the baking time.  When I read the instructions and saw 20 minutes at 400, I was skeptical, it seemed like a long time for such a high temp.  In hindsight, I wish I had listened to my inner voice.  My crust came out of the oven a little black around the edges.  Luckily, I had not trimmed it down by one-third as the recipe called for and had enough to trim away the burnt edges and still have a side crust.

The filling of a marshmallowy meringue was such a small amount that I had trouble mixing it in my 6qt kitchen aid bowl; it just wasn’t enough volume for the beater to really come in contact with it at first.  After a really long time, it finally came together.  Since I did not want to buy any jam-I have two dozen jars of homemade blackberry jelly in my pantry, I just used some of my own from the open jar in the fridge.

As the tart baked in the oven, it puffed and cracked and finally, it was a nice, light golden shade and had a few deep cracks across the top. Carefully, I removed the pan from the oven, closed the door and set it down to cool.  A quick glance at the clock, 11:12pm; we wouldn’t be tasting this pie tonight.  Off to bed, to sleep and to dream of crunchy, crackly meringue and tart pockets of ruby red berries…

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