cooking the books: breads from the la brea bakery

IMG_3111Fans of sourdough bread baking will most likely be familiar with Nancy Silverton’s book, Breads from the La Brea Bakery.  Some folks would agree that it is one of the necessary “textbooks” on home baking of sourdough bread.  When I found a copy of it at a local antique mall, I did not hesitate in making the purchase; this book has been on my “must buy” wish list for a long time.  As a matter of fact, when I grew my own grape starter from the grapes growing in the Demonstration Garden at Ellington Ag Center in Nashville back in 2009, it was a method attributed to Ms. Silverton and now that I have the book to refer to, I can say it is her method but I only had half of the directions.  The chapter on growing the starter, maintaining/replenishing it and using it is lengthy and a definite must read for anyone attempting one of the many recipes in the book.

Recently, I made a batch of sourdough English muffins from the final chapter in the book.  For those of you who have never looked at the book, the final chapter is a collection of recipes that give you a way to use excess starter that comes from the portion of starter that is discarded during feedings rather than the larger amounts grown in the majority of recipes throughout the book.  A word of warning, most of the recipes in the book, including the last chapter, take a full two days to execute and this does not include the time necessary for a normal feeding of the starter.  The English muffin recipe is a little different in that it is a single day recipe and also one that calls for both fresh yeast and starter.

IMG_3083This recipe is the second bread recipe I have tried from the book, the first being the Country White loaves from the chapter on growing a starter, and it was a true learning experience.  As with many of the recipes I have glanced at so far in this book, there is an ingredient list that is longer than you would expect and an equipment list that calls for specialized baking tools.  Anyone who has ever been to my home knows that I do not generally shy away from purchasing tools and equipment.   On occasion, I will try to use something similar rather than adding to the clutter unless it is a bundt pan or a cookie cutter; a baker can never have too many shapes to choose from.  However, a long list of tools and ingredients that I must shop in several stores to find is always a little off putting, even for a dedicated baker like myself.

Besides the starter, this recipe called for milk, bread flour, dark rye flour, fresh yeast, wheat bran, wheat germ, flax seeds, rye chops or flakes, sunflower seeds, barley malt syrup, vegetable oil, sea salt, rice flour (just for dusting the dough), butter (for greasing the rings) and finally, semolina flour, also for dusting the dough but it was labeled as optional.  That’s a lot of ingredients, a lot of ingredients that can be tricky to find in one store here, at least until Whole Foods opens in the summer.  So with this in mind, please note my concern when I began mixing the dough and realized that I truly had a bowl of what looked a lot like lumpy porridge.  After an extended shopping trip to find the ingredients and fermenting the sponge for about 2 hours, I was truly discouraged.  Although I closely followed the recipe and made only on substitution-whole grain cooked cereal blend for the rye chops, I was at a loss for what I could have done wrong.  In the end, I doubled the amount of flour in the dough from 8 ounces to a pound and finally had a dough that seemed to be what is called for in the recipe.  Honestly, a book as technical as this one really should have more photos especially since so many steps in the recipes call for specific results and without photos, you have to rely on your interpretation of the wording.

IMG_3085The recipe states that you should have a dough that is wet and sticky and may not hold its shape and I am pretty sure I nailed that part.  It is dumped out onto a dusting of rice flour and covered with a dusting of rice or semolina flour and allowed to rest for 20 minutes before shaping.

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Remember my mention of specialized equipment?  Well, I was hesitant to purchase English muffin rings because I did not want to have to find a place to store them.  A suggestion in the recipe is to save tuna cans and cut the bottoms out to make your own rings.  We do not eat that much tuna and if you have looked at a can of tuna lately, you have probably noticed that they no longer have a bottom that can be cut out, they are pressed from a single sheet and only the tops are removable which eliminated the cans as an alternative.  Then while at work one morning, I spied cans from the crabmeat being used for crabcakes and thought they might work, they are a little tall, but the bottoms were removeable.  There were 8 cans and that meant I could make either half a batch or do two bakes; I chose to do two bakes.  In the future, I would attempt to get a weight on the entire batch of dough so that the muffins are of an equal size.


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Here is the first batch rising in the crabby cans.  Using the cans was okay, the strip of metal left from the top and bottom after removal was jagged and despite having used a pair of pliers to flatten the edges, the dough still stuck in the tiny crevices.  The rough texture of the metal made getting the muffins out a bit of a chore.  For the second bake, I buttered the cans and then dipped them in semolina and they definitely did not stick to the cans.  The down side to the extra semolina, the muffins were coated in semolina which made them a bit messy to handle.  Looks like I may make the plunge and buy rings or just start hoarding biscuit cutters!


IMG_3108For a first attempt, they were pretty good.  Not enough nooks and crannies when sliced with a knife but fork splitting them leaves bigger holes for the butter to collect in.  Until next time, these are already gone!

pink grapefruit tart; a tuesdays with dorie post

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While procrastinating, a favorite pastime of mine, I came across a list of what people were planning to give up for Lent.  My favorite answer on the list; winter.  Yes, I think giving up winter for Lent sounds like a great idea and as I sit here on my couch watching more snow fall and accumulate, I really cannot wait for winter to end!  Even so, there is one good thing to come from winter other than Christmas presents, it is actually peak season for citrus fruits.

Growing up, my mother would always treat us to grapefruits, usually white ones, and I can remember cutting them in half, pouring sugar over the top and eating the sections.  When I went out on my own, I found I preferred ruby red grapefruits to the white ones from my childhood but these days, I skip the sugar and just peel them and eat the segments.  Occasionally, I will pick up some juice but, I buy small quantities so that it does not go to waste.  However, taking those lovely fruits and making a cooked curd filled tart topped with yet more fresh grapefruit segments never really occurred to me.  After reading the recipe, I was rather skeptical that this would work for me.


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Even though I read the recipe before starting on this tart, I was surprised by just how much time it took to come together.  The recipe calls for using a food processor to make the dough for the tart shell, my favorite method for tart and pie dough.  My other favorite tart/pie method; using coffee filters and marbles when prebaking the shell.  Believe it or not, coffee filters are really the best choice for the task.  Parchment paper becomes brittle when baked, creases in a piece of foil can cut the shell and break it and wax paper is covered in wax-who wants that in a tart shell?  Coffee filters are very strong; they hold the weight of wet coffee as water pours through it.  If you can get restaurant sized filters, you will only need one otherwise you will need to use about 4 of the 8-12 cup filters.  The butter in the tart shell will keep the filter from sticking to the dough but if the shell is frozen and allowed to thaw before baking, give the inside of the shell a spritz of spray.  Keep in mind that the flour you rolled the dough out with and any condensation that forms on the surface make a thin layer of paste that can glue the filter in place making it difficult to remove and you could either leave some of the filter behind or it could take sections of the crust with it.  So if you are worried, err on the side of caution and give it a spritz.

Then there is the question of marbles as pie weights.  Well let’s just call them a solution to a dilemma I had; I couldn’t justify using a bag of beans or rice once and then tossing them when I remembered I had a collection of glass marbles.  The marbles stepped up to the plate and I have been using them ever since.  They conduct heat pretty well, they do not shatter in the oven-at least mine haven’t in all the years I have used them as weights and they are easy to clean.  The only down side; marbles bounce.  Trust me, if you drop them, they will bounce a few times before disappearing and finally rolling down the basement stairs for the cat to play with…Yes, I have lost a few of my marbles over the years but, I still have enough to do the job.


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The whole point of this post is the tart, so how did it taste?  Let’s just say that it is not my most favorite tart ever.  The use of two fillings may seem excessive but it is actually close to genius if you ask this pastry chef.  The lemon-almond filling serves to buffer the crust from the moisture of the grapefruit cremeux.  There is nothing worse than realizing that your crust is soggy and gummy from the filling!  The lemon-almond filling is almost like a frangipan and I toasted the almond flour to give it a little more flavor.  The grapefruit cremeux was extremely flavorful but I wonder if it could be made more like a curd and stiffer without the use of gelatin, something I do not enjoy working with-especially now that I do not have a microwave in my kitchen.  At first, I wondered about the addition of Campari; I was not sure of the actual flavor of it and decided to taste it and I suggest you learn from my experience and do not drink it straight.  However, I am now completely aware of why it is called “bitters” and I was shocked at how well it blended with the grapefruit flavor of the cremeux without making it bitter.

The final step is to slice up the fruit so that you have segments to work with.  Because the grapefruits are so juicy, they need to be laid out on paper towels and allowed to dry for a few hours.  The dry segments are arranged over the two fillings in the baked shell.  My fruits varied in color and I was hoping to make an ombre pattern over the top but had to settle for just two shades of pink.  All the components come together to give you a strong grapefruit flavor with creamy and sandy textures wrapped around the fresh fruit.  It was nice, but not my favorite.  Having seen a few photos of some of the other bakers tarts as they prepared them this past weekend, I thought the use of blood oranges or tangerines just for the top might have been better.  However, If I make this one again, I am thinking I might like to use fresh raspberries on top of the grapefruit cremeux.  
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You can see the layers; the crisp tart shell, the softer and sandy lemon-almond filling, the creamy grapefruit cremeux and the fresh grapefruit segments.  The bright flavors of winter’s bounty will have to get us through the snowy weather and cold temperatures but let this be a warning to that rodent in Pennsylvania-your days are numbered…


IMG_3151To see how the other bakers fared with this recipe, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.  Want to bake with us?  Pick up the book and get to work!  We post the upcoming recipes on the website and you can bake some of the recipes or all of them-you decide.  Our only request, buy the book because we do not post the recipes.

chocolate chiffon bundt cake with drunken caramel; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Winter is once again showing us just who is in control.  Not only is it laughing at us, winter is flipping us the bird, repeatedly.  While I shouldn’t complain too loudly, it’s not like I live in the Boston area (sorry sis!), but as I sit here typing this, the weather forecast is calling for up to 15″ of snow to fall in the next 24 hours.  My complaint isn’t that it will snow but that 15″ is three times our average annual snowfall of 5 inches!

With the temperatures well below freezing with the wind chill, I was glad to be in my kitchen baking a chocolate cake.  And if there is one thing I am sure we can all agree on, chocolate cake fixes just about everything, especially if you serve it with a generous drizzle of drunken caramel sauce!  The cake, as the recipe is written in Baking with Julia, is supposed to be served with fresh raspberries soaked in liqueur and rich creme anglaise sauce that gets bruleed with a torch.  Well, I did not have raspberries or a torch and I did not want to make the creme anglaise sauce because it is just too rich for me.  But I did think a drizzle of caramel sauce would be nice and then I saw the bottle of Pennington’s and I couldn’t help myself…
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The cake itself is a typical chiffon cake; spongy and light and completely dependent upon the cocoa powder for flavor.  Because the cocoa powder is practically the sole component of the flavor profile, I suggest you use a high quality cocoa powder, I used Valrhona cocoa powder because I wanted that chocolate punch I knew Valrhona would give to the cake.  If I had used a cocoa powder typically found in the grocery store, I might have gotten decent results but the lack of raspberries and the creme anglaise would have been really obvious and I am not sure that a few dollops of my drunken caramel would have worked as well.  That caramel sauce packs a punch especially with the use of Pennington’s.  If you are not familiar with Pennington’s, let me tell you that you should get your hands on a bottle if you can.  It is distilled in Nashville and they use real strawberry flavor-not the fake stuff so it tastes like ripe juicy berries, the perfect companion for a chocolate cake.
IMG_3069Drunken Caramel Sauce

makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cinnamon stick

1″ piece of a vanilla bean, split open

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 cup booze-dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey (I highly recommend Pennington’s Strawberry Rye Whiskey)

Pour the cream into a small pot with the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (the seeds scraped out and added to the pot) and the butter and place it over very low heat to warm it.  Place the sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy bottom pot with 1/4 cup of water.  Bring the pot to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to melt the sugar.  Wash the sides of the pot with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming.  Allow the sugar to boil until it turns amber in color.  Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in the warm cream mixture, stirring to combine.  It will boil up violently so take caution when stirring.  Return the pot to the stove over low heat and stir gently to dissolve the caramelized sugar at the bottom and sides of the pot.  Do not boil the mixture, just stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is combined.  Remove from the heat again and carefully stir in the booze.  Pour the caramel through a mesh strainer remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and into a heat proof serving pitcher or a bowl.  Allow it to cool to about 100 degrees before serving, store in the fridge and reheat as needed.

To see how the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers did with this recipe, check out the “LYL” page on the website.  If you would like to join us as we bake our way through Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi, get your hands on the books and get to work-the more the merrier!

finding inspiration at the grocery store; $10 tomato sauce

$10 tomato sauce

Maintaining a blog page that centers around food means I spend time looking for recipe ideas.  Using someone else’s recipe (with proper credits of course) is always a possibility but it does not say much for my own abilities in the kitchen.  Having a constant stream of original recipe ideas is challenging and I never know where inspiration may strike.  As some of you already know, I am a member of the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group and once a week, we post a recipe from either Baking with Julia or Baking Chez Moi.  But that is only one day out of seven and what will I do for the other six days?

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found my inspiration in the pasta and tomato sauce aisle.  Actually, to be more accurate, I found myself stunned that anyone would pay nearly $10 for a jar of tomato sauce.  When I was growing up, the only tomato sauce we ate was my mothers homemade cooked they way my great-grandmother taught her to make sauce.  It has always been the standard by which I judge tomato sauce.  As my children were growing up, I found myself struggling to keep up and generally relied on a jar of sauce from the store.  When money was short, and it frequently was, a jar of sauce and a pound of pasta could feed us affordably and there would be leftovers.  Needless to say, $10 for a jar of sauce nearly knocked me down; I am in the wrong line of work it seems!

It wasn’t hard to figure out what I would be making, photographing and posting on the blog after that.  With so many interesting flavors to choose from, I decided I would make up a batch of sauce and leave the high dollar jars at the store.  Knowing I had some butternut squash to work with, I decided on a batch of butternut tomato sauce.  The two flavors compliment each other well.  The squash which adds a nice velvety texture to the sauce also has enough natural sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes without the addition of sugar.

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Because I like a tomato sauce with more than tomatoes in it, I also chopped up some carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions too and tossed them with the butternut squash and a little olive oil.  
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Roasting vegetables gives color as well as flavor and after about 45 minutes at 425 degrees, the vegetables were soft enough.  First, they went into the pot with all of the other ingredients and I let it simmer a bit then I pureed the mixture.  If you use a regular blender for the job, be sure to do it in small batches, cover it but leave a small gap for steam to escape and drape a towel over the top of the blender.  Hold the top in place and blend on low-speed.  Do not do this unless you are holding the top down or the lid could pop off and send hot sauce flying all over!

IMG_2626Perciatelli is a hollow spaghetti tube and it was the perfect choice for such a creamy sauce.  Some folks will tell you that you should never toss cook pasta with oil to keep it from clumping.  The oil will make the pasta slippery and keep the sauce from sticking to it.  Maybe so but I generally add the oil anyway, but I do make an effort to add only the smallest amount possible.

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Roasted Butternut Tomato Sauce

makes about 3 pints

1 1/2 pounds of butternut squash

2 medium carrots

1-2 stalks celery

3-4 cloves garlic

1 medium onion

1 cup button mushrooms, about 8-10

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 (28 oz) can plum tomatoes

3-4 sprigs fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1-2 bay leaves (one if fresh are used)

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.  Peel the squash and cut into large cubes.  Peel the carrots and cut them along with the celery into 1″ slices.  Roughly chop the onions.  Halve the garlic cloves and the mushrooms and combine all of the vegetables in a bowl with the olive oil.  Toss to coat and dump them onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or foil.  Roast the vegetables until the carrot and squash are fork tender, about 45 minutes.  Dump the roasted vegetables into a heavy bottomed stock pot with at least a 3 quart capacity.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and using your hands, crush the tomatoes a bit to break them up.  Add the basil, thyme, bay leaf, turmeric and smoked paprika.  Add 1 cup of the broth and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.  Using an immersion blender (if you have one) or a regular blender, puree the sauce; be sure to take precautions with a regular blender-read the warning above!  Return the sauce to the pot and using the additional 1/2 cup of broth, adjust the consistency of the sauce to your preference.  Season with the salt and pepper and serve with your favorite pasta.  Garnish with additional fresh parsley sprigs and grated Romano cheese if you like.  The sauce can be canned using the same method for tomato sauce or it can be frozen in containers.

IMG_2633Personally, I am planning to grow butternut squash and plum tomatoes in the garden just so I can make more sauce this summer!

marquise au chocolat and salsa quitza; a tuesdays with dorie post

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After a weeks absence, I am back in the kitchen, completely.  Let’s just say that if you have the chance to avoid the flu-do it.  It has been more than 10 years since I was that sick and honestly, I hope it doesn’t happen again for a long time!  The simplicity of this recipe was the perfect way to ease back into the kitchen.

The recipe for Marquise au Chocolat makes a large, rich loaf of frozen chocolate mousse which is meant to be served in slices.  Since there are just two of us, I cut the recipe and made only a quarter of the batch and since it was so small, I made the decision to press the filling into a six-inch round cake pan that I had lined with lady fingers.  This will be the perfect little pick-me-up since I also spiked it with some single barrel Kentucky Bourbon.  Finally, a drizzle of blackberry syrup and a few plump berries and dessert is served!  Something tells me my husband will not think twice about eating this one!


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As I mentioned earlier, I was sick last week, came down with it all so that I was too sick to make the Salsa Quitza which was my plan for Superbowl Sunday.  We were supposed to go to a friends house to watch the game but since we were both miserable, we sprawled out on the couch and did not move all day.  Needless to say, my plan of making the quitza to bring to the party was cancelled.  If you ask me, that wasn’t such a bad thing.  Honestly, I was doubting the results as stated in the recipe and after reading the comments from plenty of the other bakers last Tuesday, I am glad I had a chance to follow my personal instincts.

The idea of spreading the dough out into a large cake pan and topping it with cream cheese had me thinking it would be messy to eat and for the two of us, just too cheesey.  My bakers sense (kinda like Spiderman’s “spidey” sense…) had me thinking it would make a nice focaccia.  Guess what-it did!  With just half a batch of dough, I made a quarter sheet pan sized piece of focaccia that was the perfect side dish for our dinner of grilled swordfish and salad.

IMG_3042If you want to make this the way I did, use blue corn meal.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t lend any color to the dough but it does add a nice nutty flavor along with dark flecks and crunch.  Several bakers commented on the salsa being really wet and I honestly think that the recipe probably should call for “pico de gallo” and not chunky salsa.  If you aren’t familiar with pico de gallo, it is a fresh mixture of finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro with lemon juice.  I measured out nearly a cup and let it sit in a strainer for about an hour to drip dry and then sprinkled it over the top of the dough after shaping.  A generous topping of shredded Mexican cheeses over the salsa and then into the oven it went.  It baked up fast, just 20 minutes and it was done.  After cooling for a while, I sliced off strips and cut them into diamonds; two-bite pieces to pair with dinner.

The dough itself was fairly easy to make with a mixer if you do not have a bread machine.  It was a bit soft and sticky but after mixing it for about 2 minutes, I turned the mixer off and let the dough sit in the bowl for 10 minutes.  This rest, autolyse is the technical term, let the dough absorb all of moisture and as a result, it was not quite as sticky as it could have been.  This is definitely a dough recipe worth having in my repertoire.  It just might make another appearance in my kitchen.

To see what the other bakers came up with, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL (leave your links) page.  If this seems interesting to you, consider baking along with us as we prepare each of the recipes in Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi.  You will have to purchase or borrow the books if you do not already have them; out of respect for the author, we do not publish the recipes!

Country White bread; the learning curve

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Recently, I picked up a copy of Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery.  If you aren’t familiar with the book or the bakery, it is a Los Angeles area landmark and a the breads are the type that most home bakers only dream of making.  The focus of the book is to start and maintain your own sourdough culture and to use it to make bread using the recipes that follow.  Sounds simple but I will warn you, there is not much room for creativity; the procedures and recipes need to be followed closely if you want the loaf to resemble those sold in the bakery.

Another note, this book is not for the beginner and to get the most out of it, you really should have some idea of bread baking.  That said, I will suggest that if you have had some experience (at home, in a restaurant or a bakery) and you want to take it a step further, pick up a copy of this book and start at the very beginning.  This is one of the few books that I feel you really must read all the information that comes before the recipes and then, read it again a few more times.  Yes folks, this is more like a textbook and a workbook rolled into a collection of recipes.

Personally, making artisan breads leavened with a natural yeast culture is another of those skills I have always wanted to develop but even though I am a pastry chef and I bake for a living, I have never pursued bread baking as a career.  Having had some time to spend in my new kitchen, I decided to take my own sourdough culture out of the fridge and try it in one of the recipes.  Because there is a need for exact measurements and conditions, I took a cup of my starter and began the process of feeding it as the book instructs.   And to test it, I started with the Country White bread, the very first recipe in the book. 
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Nancy instructs you “not to do a thing until you read the recipe carefully and calculate the times involved” and that is just the beginning.  This recipe is 14 pages long.  Suddenly, I was intimidated and the reasons I have never sought out a job baking bread for a living were staring me in the face.  Never the less, I did as told and read, reread and then read the recipe again.  Once I had written out my bread schedule, I got to work on making my first loaf, a two-day bread baking experience.


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There are so many steps, resting periods and so forth that I would be in danger of plagiarizing the book if I typed it out here so let me suggest that if you want to try making a loaf, get a copy of the book.  Truly this book is a worthwhile reference on bread making and it deserves a space on the shelf of serious bread bakers.  For a first attempt, I think the bread turned out pretty good and if I judge it by the amount my husband ate that first day, I would say it was a successful attempt.  Was it perfect?  Absolutely not.  Somehow, I added too much flour to the dough and I will say that the way the instructions for mixing by machine are written, they tell you to add the flour, meaning all(measured with a scale-not by the cup) of it at once.  It isn’t until several sentences later that it suggests holding some back to adjust the consistency.  Too late.  My dough was a little stiffer than it should have been and it made the machine kneading process impossible-I could hear my 6 quart Kitchen Aid struggling and switched to kneading by hand.  This was not an easy task and I kneaded the dough quite a bit longer than called for.

Just as the instructions are involved, so are the ingredients called for throughout the book.  A quick glance at a few recipes had me wondering where I could find rye chops and food grade lye near my home.  Then I looked at the equipment needed, I really need to find some english muffin rings or tuna cans that can be opened on both ends…This will be a learning experience, a slow one and one I plan to enjoy, one loaf at a time.
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out and about in Portsmouth, VA

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On a recent and showery Saturday, we ventured down the peninsula to Portsmouth.  Our primary purpose was to visit the monthly Antiques to Flea Market, a free event held each month in the Middle Street parking garage.  We also planned on walking around the Olde Towne area and to find a place for lunch.  Like many of the cities in the area, there are many historical sites, some predating the Revolutionary war while others are related to the Civil war.  To learn more about these sites, stop by the Visitor’s Center and pick up a map for the self guided walking tour.

A good place to start is on the water front by taking a stroll along the sea wall.  The view of the Norfolk Shipyard and downtown Norfolk are just a part of what you will see there.  In warmer months, the Lightship Portsmouth museum is open for tours.  However, there are several other museums in the area and the ferry that travels across the Elizabeth River to the downtown Norfolk area to keep you busy.   If you are looking to grab lunch, venture over to High Street.  Both sides of the street in this shopping district are lined with just about every type of restaurant imaginable.  We took the recommendations of a nice family walking past us and ventured into the Bier Garden for some authentic Bavarian food in the hopes of taking the chill off.
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If the weather had been a little warmer and drier, we would have spent more time exploring the waterfront.  We thought about taking a ride on the ferry but it requires exact change ($1.75/$3.50 per person/round trip) which we did not have with us and because it was drizzly and cold, it did not seem like the best idea.
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At first glance, this ship does not look that big until you notice the tug boat out front.  It quickly provides a scale to judge the size and also makes the river seem so much larger as well.  Portsmouth is an old port and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway begins with mile marker “0” in the water between Portsmouth and Norfolk.  
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A chance to ride the paddle boat ferry will be just one of the reasons we go back to Portsmouth.  The schedule is available in the Visitor’s Center, just remember to bring plenty of change and small bills to get on.


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Also available is a map of the historic homes in the area.  We took a short walk around looked at the houses.  If only it was a little warmer…


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This house was rather unique in the fact that the fenced in yard was huge.  We were in the process of having a picket fence installed in our backyard and this one held our attention, perhaps a little too long…
IMG_2410Blame it on this guy!  He followed us as we walked the length of the property and more than once, he jumped up and barked at us.  We stopped and petted him a few times, his tag told us his name is Crosby and he was very friendly.  Don’t you just love the bow tie?  See you next time Crosby!