baking from the garden; cucumber bread

IMG_6786Gardeners have preferences when it comes to the plants chosen each season and I am no different than most.  In my flower beds, I always include a mix of herbs and edible flowers as well as those that will attract beneficial insects and help repel the destructive ones.  My vegetable garden follows the same plan and tucked in between the crops are many of those same herbs and flowers.  Companion planting is another of my strategies in the garden but honestly, I haven’t seen a huge improvement by following the does and the don’ts of plant location.

This year, like every other year, I have planted cucumbers in my garden.  The selection of varieties chosen include Marketmore (both #70 and #76), Homemade Pickles, Charming White, Lemon and Tendergreen.  The weather pattern this summer has been challenging and while none of my squash plants survived and produced fruits, the cucumbers have done well, at least, two varieties have.  Homemade Pickle plants produced enough cukes that I have completely stocked my pantry with pickles and relish and I have enough gathered now to make one last batch of relish.

Making salads with cucumbers is another one of my favorite summer activities.  While I enjoy adding slices to green salads or just mixing the slices with a little rice wine vinegar, honey and chili flakes, I decided to try something different.  With more Tendergreen Cukes than I could eat, I thought about a loaf of bread and what it might be like with cucumber puree in it.

IMG_6790The previous photo is a Homemade Pickle and this one is Marketmore #76.  In the past, Marketmore #76 has been a great producer, this year, not so much.  My thoughts are that the weather has affected the yield but more importantly, I think the soil is still lacking.  If you have been following this blog, you are aware that we started this garden from the ground up two years ago and this is the first year that we are planting in the ground.  Lots of layering with materials such as compost, leaves, coffee, chicken litter from our hens and eggshells has greatly improved the structure but I think it needs to be amended further and turned as well as given a season off to let the nitrogen levels fix.

IMG_6792The tendrils are amazingly strong and these plants would sprawl out all over if I give them a chance.

IMG_6769For my first batch, I peeled, seeded and pureed some cukes.  The pale green liquid was added to a hard roll recipe and the dough was shaped into batards.  My thought was to keep it simple and I added a few dill seeds to the mix.

IMG_6775Once baked, it was nearly impossible to see that the cucumbers had an effect on the dough.  The interior of the loaf is nearly white and the crumb is a tiny bit compact.  Not the results I was hoping for but still a good loaf of bread.

IMG_6780After giving it some thought. I started a second batch of dough using a different recipe.  For this batch, I left the skin on the cukes but removed the seeds before pureeing.  The liquid was a much darker shade of green and had little flecks of skin in it.  For the dough itself, I settled on a recipe that used a Poolish style starter to develop more flavor in the dough.  After letting the flour, water and yeast mixture age overnight, I mixed the dough using a method that does not include kneading the dough.

There are several good books out there that use this method but I chose to follow the Country Loaf recipe found in Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and found here in this New York Times Recipe.  To clarify, I did not use his recipe, just his method for mixing, shaping and baking the dough.

IMG_6781As you can see, the inclusion of skin gave the dough a good amount of green color.  The little flecks of skin provide some visual interest and a little texture, as well.

IMG_6799Using a lovely little banneton mold that my husband gave me, I was able to give the loaf a nice spiral pattern on the surface.

IMG_6806As you can see, the interior has a tint of green to it and a few green specks here and there.  The crust baked up crisply and it tasted wonderful while still a little warm.  The problem, it just didn’t taste like cucumber, at least not while it was warm.  Once the loaf cooled and sat for several hours, the flavor of caramelized flour and dough from the crust of the bread was no longer the predominant flavor.  The subtle, earthy and almost sweet, flavor of the cucumbers was fairly obvious.

This loaf recipe is a work in progress and if all goes well, it will be part of my next book.  Until then, I will have to make more bread and test it for flavor and color, and you will have to forgive me for not including a recipe that is only half done!

Scaccia; Sicilian Lasagna Bread

IMG_6719My mother gave me several issues of the magazine Saveur that she was finished with.  They have been sitting on the coffee table in the living room for several months and recently, I found myself flipping through one, Issue 182 from April 2016.  The cover promised a Taste of Sicily, and I went through the article in search of bread recipes and I wasn’t disappointed.

IMG_6697Scaccia is favorite snack food in Sicily and can be easily found in shops and is made with many thin layers of semolina bread stacked with tomato sauce and a traditional cheese called Caciocavallo, a traditional stretched cheese curd.  Having never traveled to Sicily, I will accept that fact and add this to it, it is not easy to find here!  The recipe looked easy enough and after checking my pantry for semolina flour, I mixed up a batch of the dough.  This recipe instructs you to also make the tomato sauce but I suspect that you could use just about any sauce, homemade or purchased.  Caciocavallo, which translates as cheese on horseback in English, is similar to Provolone in flavor and is made from either sheep or cow’s milk and as much as I would like to try it, I didn’t go out in search of it and just substituted some grated Asiago.

IMG_6698First, the dough is rolled out into a large rectangle.  The result is a very thin sheet which gets topped with sauce and cheese before being folded up.  Then more sauce and cheese, more folding and finally, a log of layered dough, sauce and cheese is folded in half  and placed into a pan lined with parchment paper.

IMG_6699The loaf is not given a rising period but I did let mine sit for at least 30 minutes while the oven preheated.

IMG_6702Looking at the loaf, I was worried.  Knowing that only 1/4 teaspoon of yeast was used to leaven the dough was obvious; it did not appear to rise much, if at all.

IMG_6720After baking the loaf for nearly and hour, I was surprised to see that it did rise a small amount.  The aroma that filled the kitchen was undeniably that of lasagna or of a similar baked tomato sauce and pasta dish.  Having waited for about 20 minutes, I carefully sliced into loaf and revealed the layers of spongy dough, tomato sauce and cheese.  Not only did it smell like lasagna, it tasted like it too, both in flavor as well as the texture of the interior.

The verdict, this is a recipe that I will turn to when I want something besides the usual layers of pasta, sauce and cheese, especially for a pot luck or picnic-it travels well and can left to cool, sliced an hour or two later without being reheated.  This recipe has a lot of potential for variations.  The sauce could be varied; pesto, alfredo, butternut squash and mushrooms all come to mind.  Even the cheese could be swapped but, I look forward to finding a chunk of Caciocavallo so that I can taste it.

If you can find a copy of issue 182, open it to page 70 and get to work, take note that a detailed set of instructions with illustrations on the folding methods is also included on page 74.  For those of you that would rather just see the recipe, rejoice!  Saveur magazine has the recipe posted on their website and it is available for free, find the recipe here, and the folding instructions here.

Swedish Limpa; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_6640It has been quite a while since I have participated in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking.  What can I say, life gets in the way?  Partly, the other angle; having a pile of sweets in the house for just two of us means we eat way more than we should!  When I saw the choices included a bread recipe this month, I decided to get in gear and give it a go.

Limpa is a type of black bread.  The dough is made with rye flour and is a bit on the sweet side from the addition of molasses and brown sugar but what gives it the most flavor are the aromatic seeds in the dough.  Anise, caraway and fennel seeds are crushed and added to the mix and so is a bit of orange zest (which I skipped) and the result is a slightly sweet, bread that has a touch of licorice flavor and a nice compact crumb.  The recipe suggests using it for sandwiches, much like they do in Sweden, layering it with smoked meats and cheeses.  We preferred to slice it and enjoy it toasted with butter.

IMG_6641Rather than bake it in the round 9 inch pans the recipe calls for, I used 6 inch square pans.  They made the most perfect cube shaped loaves and the slices were just large enough that two thin slices of toast were more than filling.

IMG_6643My rye flour was stone ground and it added a nice texture to the crumb.  Little flecks of rye and seeds, this one is a keeper.  Since the recipe made two loaves, I froze one for later.

Be sure to visit the website and see what we are up to and if you like, bake along with us!  To see the recipe, or bake with us, you will need the books

tartine’s country bread; a lesson in bread making

IMG_5912On my last birthday, my husband gave me a copy of the Tartine Bread book.  We were out on a rainy Saturday, wandering through the shops in Merchant Square and I had a chance to look through a copy of the book.  The cover shot, the dark loaf with the blistered crust…Yes, it was bread lust at first glance.  However, I suspect my husband was also lusting over that loaf of bread and now that I have made the Country Bread, I am sure of it!

Like so many of the popular books on bread available, this one relies strictly on techniques created by the author and many aspects of the methods used seem at odds with traditional bread making.  Most notably, the lack of extensive kneading to build structure and instead, the use of an autolyse so the flour can expand and absorb the water and a longer bulk rising to allow the gluten to develop slowly.  Now, to be perfectly honest, the first section of the book consists of only one actual bread recipe with sub-recipes that rely on the basic recipe with various additions, but to really understand the technique, you must master the Country Bread.  The entire collection of bread recipes in the book rely on the methods outlined in that very first recipe!

What I love most about the Country Bread recipe, simplicity.  Especially the equipment list.  First of all, you must have a scale that measures in grams.  The rest of the list includes a thermometer, bowl, plastic bowl scraper, a bench knife and an oven proof dutch oven or covered casserole dish.  The recipe is worked in percentages, called baker’s percentages and the weights are all in grams.   The good news is that weighing it all out in grams guarantees consistency.

IMG_5863The only step I did not follow was creating a starter to leaven the bread because I have a starter that I grew from grapes that were growing in the Demonstration Garden that I worked in when I lived in Tennessee.  The starter has been in use since 2009 and when we moved in 2014, it was one of the things I was most worried about losing!  We had a 12 hour drive, stopped multiple times for the dog and for the night in the middle of that drive, the entire time the starter was tucked in a cooler with some ice.  It made the trip like a champ and nearly 2 years later, I am still using it.

The starter is fed and allowed to develop overnight.  If you read the recipe, you will be given many bits of information to help you along and I find that very helpful when using a new recipe.  The instructions tell you to measure out the warm water, add the starter to it, and if it floats, it is fully developed and ready to go.  As you can see in the photo above, my starter is floating in the water.

IMG_5871There are two schools of thought on adding salt to flour dough.  One says add it to the dough as you add the flour, one calls for holding it back and adding it later because it can affect the structure of the dough.  At Tartine, they hold the salt and a small amount of water back and add them after the initial mixing and resting period.  The salt is sprinkled over the dough, water is poured on and using your hand, you squeeze and squish and work the dough onto itself to mix it all in.

IMG_5873As the dough develops during the bulk fermentation, bubbles form around the sides of the bowl.  Rather than dumping it onto a table and forcibly kneading it, the dough is “turned” in the bowl every thirty minutes for three hours.

IMG_5875Using a wet hand, the dough is pulled up from the bottom of the bowl and stretched across itself, turning it.  This is done 2-3 times each half hour, each time is called a “turn” and it is all the kneading the dough will get.

IMG_5879As the dough develops and rises, it gets softer and lighter and you need to take care not to press the air out in the process of turning the dough.

IMG_5883When it is ready, dumped onto a table and cut in half.  A minimal amount of flour is used to help with shaping.  The folding and shaping is probably the most complicated step and it is completed with one hand and a bench knife.  Lifting and stretching the dough across it’s center, it is carefully shaped so that it is not deflated.

IMG_5891After shaping, it is allowed to rise in a cloth lined bowl which has been floured.

IMG_5893The loaves rise for about 3 hours and because most of us do not have two dutch ovens or even the ability to bake with two of them simultaneously, you will want to hold one back by placing it in the fridge for a while.

IMG_5895Once the oven and the dutch oven are heated properly, flour the surface of the dough (do not forget this step-it will not come out of the pan if you do!) and turn it into the hot pan.  Using a lame or a very sharp blade, score the dough, cover it and place it in the oven.  Twenty minutes covered, twenty minutes uncovered and it will be ready to take from the oven.

IMG_5896IMG_5900IMG_5903Beautifully colored, perfectly blistered.  Let it cool completely before cutting into the loaf.


To see the recipe, please consider purchasing a copy of the book Tartine or at the very least, borrowing it from a library.  There are many great videos of the author as well as other bakers making bread using the technique described in the book and they are worth watching so consider looking them up.  The Country Bread recipe is available, reprinted with permission on the New York Times website.

persian naan; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5601This week, we revisited a recipe we prepared once before because part of baking every recipe in a cookbook means that on occasion, you make a recipe more than once.  Sort of.  The dough for Persian Naan is also the dough used for Oasis Naan, a flat bread we made way back when I lived in Nashville.  The dough is quick and easy to mix and only requires a single rise until doubled before being shaped and baked.

IMG_5571The bread is not one that holds well and as a result, I made half the recipe.  Considering that the loaves are stretched until they are about 18 inches long, halving the recipe really made sense.  My loaves were only about 12 inches long which fit my baking stone with room to spare.  After dividing, preshaping and resting the dough while the oven heated, the dough was heavily dimpled with wet fingertips before the stretching began.

IMG_5590My first loaf inflated like a balloon in the oven so I chose to dock the rest of them to prevent them from looking more like a bread pillow than a bread sheet.

IMG_5599The recipe called for a simple topping of sesame seeds and I stuck to the recipe this time out.  It was chewy and pliable with a light crust, perfect for scooping up stuff or wrapping around something while it was warm.  My plan is to tear off pieces and eat it with some roasted vegetables for dinner.


Hard to believe but we have been baking the recipes from the book Baking with Julia for four years!  We are getting close to the end of the book but we also have a group that is baking the entire book Baking Chez Moi.  This week, I saw a tweet from Dorie about her new book-it is about cookies, that could be fun to bake through.  Join us, pick up a copy of either book and bake along.  Visit the website for a list of the recipes we have made and to see what is up next.  To see how the rest of the bakers made out this week, check out the LYL page.


buttermilk bread: a tuesdays with dorie rewind post

IMG_5284Late last month, I made a loaf of the buttermilk bread from Baking with Julia.  It was the challenge for the week chosen by the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers and despite baking it on time, I never posted my photos.

The original recipe calls for making it in a bread machine and even though we actually own one, I chose to make it using my kitchen aid mixer.  One thing I noticed is that the dough did not need the full amount of flour called for in the recipe and I left out about half of a cup.  IMG_5286One of my favorite types of bread is Japanese Hokkaido Milk Bread.  The tall loaves are actually made of smaller loaves placed side by side in the pan.  Once baked, you can separate them into smaller pieces.  Because there is just the two of us here, I chose to make my loaf into three smaller loaves.

IMG_5287After the loaf cooled, I pulled it apart and froze two pieces for later.  The texture was so nice and fluffy and it had wonderful flavor.  We ate it all pretty quickly, it made fantastic sandwiches!  This is definitely a loaf worth making again and if you haven’t made it yet, I highly recommend giving it a go-just add the flour cautiously, you may not need it all.

IMG_5291The day I made the loaf was one of those days that I had a list of things to do that was as long as I am tall.  Taking a lot of photos was not an option and I had to make do with what was in front of me rather than styling the photo.  Rather than drag bounce cards and tripod out, I took an empty box of cereal and clipped a binder page to it to reflect the light.

To see what the other bakers made on this rewind day, visit the website!

pain de campagne; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5411This week, the recipe was a true challenge that took two weeks to complete.  Now if that doesn’t deter you from trying to mix up a batch of this bread, not much will!  To make a traditional Pain de Campagne, you have to save a piece of the dough from your batch to act as a starter for your next loaf which means you are always working with a bit of old dough called a chef.  If you find yourself without a chef, you have to start one with whole wheat flour and water and pray the yeast feels like cooperating.

This loaf was off to a bad start because not only was I chefless, I was also out of whole wheat flour.  Because I was determined to make this bread, I grabbed my tub of whole grain rye flour and my tub of graham flour and when ahead and mixed up a half batch for two chefs-one with each of the flours.  The worst part was knowing I would have to wait two days to see if either one grabbed yeast.  They did ferment a bit and not in a nice sourdough smelling way.  Even so, I kept on with the process and letting them sit longer than the recipe suggested just to see if it would increase the rise.  In the end, I was only half successful.  The rye chef never really got going and the graham flour only got going with about half of the rise.

IMG_5420The rye is on the left, the graham is on the right.  What a disappointment it was, I had assumed that since I do a fair amount of bread baking here that there would be plenty of yeast to grab and get the starter going.

IMG_5426Out of curiosity, I sliced the loaves to see what the interior looked like.  It was dense, moist and a bit gummy.  Both of them were.  It was pretty obvious that there just was not enough yeast in the chef and then the levain to give rise to the bread.  Honestly, I was surprised that the graham loaf had a ribbon of raw dough along the bottom crust-it had risen pretty well.  The flavor was surprisingly sour, a mild sour but it was there.

With that same determination that got me started on this loaf, I pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge and measured out a tablespoon and placed it in a bowl.  With my tub of graham flour still out on the counter, I mixed up another half batch of dough starting with the chef.  After all of the refreshments, I actually had a piece of dough that showed some promise…

IMG_5436The little ball of dough rose nicely and because I ran out of time, I decided I would put the basket of dough in the fridge to rise overnight.   Because I am curious, I pulled off a walnut sized piece and set it aside in the fridge; I was going to use it as a chef for a full batch of dough.  The next morning, I pulled the basket out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to warm up and rise a little more.

IMG_5434When the time came to bake the loaf, I was excited-this one actually rose!  There was oven spring too-it rose more!  The only thing I did not understand was the pale color of the crust on the top, it browned nicely on the bottom.  The interior looked nice, no stripes and no gummy crumb.  It also had a nice sour flavor.  As for that piece I set aside, I used it to start a new loaf but this time, I made a full batch.

IMG_5438The shaping was easy to do and I cannot remember when I did this type of baking last-perhaps at school…My wheat stalks in the bottom of the basket.

IMG_5439The loaf was placed over the wheat stalks.

IMG_5443The loaf gets wrapped with a braid of dough and then it is left to rise in the basket.  Two hours later, I turned it out onto the peel and let it rise some more.  Just before baking, I brushed the loaf with a wash of egg whites and snipped the wheat stalks.

IMG_5444Fresh out of the oven, my wheat stalks look more like paws.

IMG_5446The scissors did a nice job on the stalks.  It was fun to make this loaf and now it is sitting on the counter taunting me…IMG_5450May have to make another one just so I can make those wheat stalks again!  Be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie to see how the other bakers did this week.

ka’kat, one day late; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_3601In the eastern region of the Mediterranean, ka’kat are a popular street food according to contributing authors Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid in the book Baking with Julia.  Because they suggest that the little breads are similar to an American soft pretzel, I did not hesitate to mix up a batch; how could anyone from the New York City area possibly resist a freshly baked, pretzel-like treat?  Because I have so many memories of eating pretzels while walking the busy streets of Manhattan, I went so far as to tie my dough in knots and sprinkle them with salt.  While the texture of the bread while still warm from the oven was reminiscent of a pretzel, it was as they say, “close, but no cigar.”

On my shelf rests a copy of the book Flatbreads and Flavors, also written by the contributing authors and while I love the book itself, I can honestly say that every recipe I have tried is finicky, hit or miss or just disappointing.  It seems that each one requires multiple steps and methods to recreate breads that are baked in rustic kitchens and I have had very little luck getting the results hoped for.  While this recipe is probably the closest to success achieved in my kitchen, it still left me a little frustrated.  First of all, the flour needed was more than the 4-5 cups the recipe called for and to be honest, I think it ended up a little on the tough side from my choice of bread flour; the recipe calls for bread or all-flour to be used.  Even so, after a quick rise, the dough was so sticky that I had to use a little flour to shape the rounds.  Then of course, the lack of mahlab in the dough left me wondering about the flavor.  At some point, I need to venture back to the International grocery store to see if I can find it but that is a 30 minute drive for another day.

To give my breads a typical pretzel finish, I chose large crystal salts and luckily for me, I have a friend who thinks of me.  After a trip to Hawaii, my wonderful friend sent me some pink Hawaiian Alaea and black lava salt and I sprinkled a little of them over some of the breads because as much as I like sesame seeds, they aren’t salt and a pretzel isn’t a pretzel without salt!  Would I make these again?  Maybe.  If I do, I will use all-purpose flour and portion them a little larger so that they are a little more like a pretzel.

Each Tuesday, the members of Tuesdays with Dorie post about their experiences baking from the books Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi.  If you would like to read about it or join us, pick up a copy of the book and visit the website.  To see how the other member fared with this recipe, check the LYL page.

milk and honey bread; a community pick


It’s no secret that maintaining a food blog means doing some serious time in the kitchen.  Whether you create your own recipes or just use recipes you find, if you want to be considered a credible source, you have to spend time in the kitchen preparing food.  And everybody knows that a blog post about food without photos is pointless so do not forget about the time it takes to style the photo and get the shot.  On a typical blogwork day, I can easily spend 2-3 hours from start to finish and if you count the time I spend just perfecting a recipe, it can easily be spread out over several days with as much as 10 hours spent just on the recipe.  We won’t even mention the cost of ingredients or the fact that I have not monetized my blog and earn nothing for my efforts.  Seems like a pointless activity, doesn’t it?

So why would someone pursue blogging as a pastime?  Personally, I enjoy the process of creating recipes and then photographing them.  Keeping a blog also makes sharing these recipes so much easier too.  When I get a request, I can simply send a link via email.  But the biggest plus, the sense of community that comes from sharing recipes.  How can that be?  It is a fact that using computers and the internet tends to isolate us but they also give us the opportunity to communicate with others around the world.  Of course, you do need to have readers to truly get that sense of belonging and luckily, there are many online groups and websites that bloggers and even non-bloggers can join.  While some websites that allow users to post recipes freely cannot always be trusted, there are plenty of them that can.

One of my favorite websites to search for recipes and information as well as post my own recipes to is  Many of the articles posted on the website are written by well-known cookbook authors and chefs.  By creating an account, anyone can upload recipes to the website and create personal collections of recipes found on the site.  For a person with little interest in blogging but a desire to get their recipes online, this is a great way to gain exposure.  The website features a theme based contest regularly and anyone with an account can participate, something I have done on numerous occasions.  The theme changes each time and you never know what it will be; canned fish, beer, Thanksgiving pies and honey are a few past themes that come to mind.


After the submission period ends, the editors of the website cull through the recipes and select a group of recipes that they title “Community Picks” and give the members a chance to test them.  On a recent afternoon, I signed up to test a bread recipe that had been chosen as a Community Pick from the “Best recipe with honey” contest.  While the website does offer a prize for the two finalists of each contest, the testing does not but if you follow through and send in your testing notes, they may get included in the  for the recipe.

Since I am a member of the website, I chose to make the Milk and Honey bread.  When I saw the photo, I immediately thought of Hokkaido Milk bread and was reminded of all of my trips to the Korean Bakeries in Atlanta that sell a similar bread.  Tall, narrow loaves with fluffy interiors that make divine toast.  However, this bread was actually more like a loaf of brioche; tighter crumb, richer flavor but delicious toasted.

My notes went off to the editors and while they did not use them, I am including them here:
A quick glance at the ingredient list for this recipe might have you questioning the seemingly random numbers but to an experienced baker, it means that the amounts are exact and precise.  The truth is the art of baking is steeped in math and science and serious bakers know that a scale is a necessity, not a luxury and when weighing in grams, there is little room for surprises.
The shape of the resulting loaf reminds me of Hokkaido Milk bread but that is where the similarity ends and it is actually produced in a manner more like a brioche dough.  It yields a rich bread with a tight crumb, lightly scented with honey and perfectly suited for any number of uses.  Toasted with marmalade or drenched with custard for French toast, this bread is a wonderful addition to your baking arsenal.
For those of you that do not have access to a scale that weighs in grams, here are a few conversions for you.  The 278 grams of milk is slightly less than 1 1/4 cup while the rye flour and the toasted wheat germ are 3 tablespoons each.  The 420 grams of bread flour translates to nearly 3 cups but do yourself a favor and hold back 1/4 cup, you may not need it, I didn’t.   Keep an eye on the oven, I dropped the temperature to 375 and the loaf baked in 40-45 minutes but I had to use a foil tent after 20 minutes.


My results with the recipe were a little mixed and I actually prepared the bread twice.  Does this mean the recipe is not good?  Absolutely NOT; my second batch of bread was spot on and quickly devoured by my coworkers.  There are so many things that can cause different results that I would say this recipe is worth preparing and to get the proper results, follow these two suggestions; hold back some of the flour and lower the oven temperature.  Flour is one of those ingredients that can vary from region to region and I don’t mean just by the growing region, the area you bought it in can matter too.  Here in the south, we tend to use softer wheats while up north, hard wheats are more common so knowing what your favorite brand is milled from helps.  And as always, oven temperatures can vary greatly because of calibration or due to elevation and just because my oven set to 350 works for me does not mean yours will work for you.  My suggestion to home bakers is to always use an oven thermometer and a timer and if you live in a higher elevation, knowing the needed adjustments is crucial for success.
IMG_3285As I mentioned, I have entered contests on the site.  A couple of my recipes have reached the finalist stage:

Masala Spiced Pear Pie, Best Thanksgiving Pie

Blackberry Cornbread Buckle, Best Buckle, Slump, Grunt, Crumble, Cobbler, Crisp, Sonker, Pandowdy, and/or Betty

Some of my recipes have also been chosen as Community Picks and to see that list, here is a link.  But the best news of all, I actually won the Best recipe with Beer contest, and of course, it was with a bundt cake recipe!  Yes, you can have your beer and cake it too…

Gingerbread Beer Bundt Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Now for those of you who are wondering, no I did not get paid to write this post, I also did not receive a shipment of kitchen gadgets or ingredients for posting it.  In the past, I have received some lovely gifts of Oxo kitchen gadgets for making it to the finalist stage.  However, I am just grateful for the chance to belong to a “community” of food lovers who enjoy sharing recipes and information as well as a little friendly competition.

pebble bread; a tuesdays with dorie post


Middle Eastern bread recipes have long since been an interest of mine and living in Nashville made it easy to learn about them.  Our former home was located within the largest Kurdish community in the US and I had an opportunity to visit a small local bakery and watch as the women prepared fresh naan and then baked it in a tandoori oven.  It was unsettling to watch as they threw the bread against the sides of the oven using bare hands knowing full well that the temperature was about 700 degrees.  The bread cooked so quickly in the high heat that as fast as one loaf was thrown in, it was taken out in what seemed to be less than a minute and it probably was.  Slightly spongy and chewy, fresh-baked naan quickly became a favorite of ours and we frequently returned to the shop to buy more.  The most amazing thing about that bread was the cost.  While you might expect to pay several dollars a piece for the 14″ rounds of bread, you would be shocked to learn that a bag of 3-4 rounds cost less than $3.  Sadly, we left Nashville for Williamsburg and our love of fresh-baked naan has become a memory.

IMG_3244Every now and then, I pull my copy of Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid off the shelf and make a batch of Middle Eastern flat bread in the hope of experiencing the same texture as the naan that we miss.  So far, it has been hit or miss, mostly miss but I do not think it is the book’s fault.  My kitchen does not have the types of ovens called for in the traditional baking methods and I am usually attempting to utilize various kitchen implements to do the job.  While the authors give great suggestions on how to get the described results, I have not had the time to make multiple batches in an effort to find my groove…


This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie group chose to make the Moroccan Pebble Bread from Baking with Julia and it just so happens to have been contributed to the book by the authors of Flatbreads and Flavors.  Feeling as though I had a little experience with this sort of bread and a familiarity with their recipes, I went ahead and mixed up half a batch-more than enough for the two of us.

You are instructed to use a blend of barley and bread flours and I was surprised to find Bob’s Big Red Mill barley flour in my local grocery store; they sold it with the natural foods.  With that first hurdle cleared, I went about figuring out how I would bake the loaves.  Our gas range is still in storage awaiting the installation of gas service from the street out front to the house and I have had to learn to cook on a glass-topped electric range.  While they may be easy to clean, the glass is easy to scratch and even break so you must know how cautious I was with my cast iron skillet on the stove top.  The directions call for an oven safe skillet that you will be moving from the stove top to the broiler for each loaf and I was worried that moving a cast iron skillet around on the stove was a recipe for disaster-pun intended.  To preserve my sanity, as well as the glass cooktop, I parked the skillet on the burner and set my baking stone about 7″ below the broiler and gave it a solid preheating.  Rather than move the skillet, I moved the loaves from the stove top to the stone using a pair of tongs.  It seemed to work fairly well and if I were to make this bread again, I would use this method.  The only other note I will make, my dough needed a lot less bread flour than the recipe suggested.  Since I was making half a batch, it called for 2 cups of bread flour but my ball of dough used about 1 1/4 cups and since it was so stiff and hard to roll out, I would suggest using a little less next time.

The only thing I did differently, and quite by accident I will add, was that I did not oil the skillet before adding the loaf and since my cast iron skillet is well seasoned, it did not make a difference.  As the bread sizzled and steam rose, the bottom cooked quickly and after pressing the surface to make more dimples, in a few minutes I was able to lift the loaf using my tongs and put it on the stone where the broiler could cook the top of the loaf.  It went quickly and for the most part, the loaves baked evenly although there were a few spots here and there that the bread was slightly underdone, something that rolling it out the dough thinner will eliminate.  Even so, this was the closest I have gotten to achieving a good loaf of Naan-like bread. The texture was slightly spongy and just a little chewy with the dark spots from the skillet and the broiler giving it a wonderful toasted flavor.  It won my husbands approval and honestly, mine too.

With summer approaching, I may have to try this one outside on the grill because there isn’t much better than a salad with fresh bread on a summer day!  To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL page.