A Smitten Kitchen Thanksgiving


Once again, I’m selfishly using a post to keep track of where I found the successful recipes I make.

This year, I made three different pies for Thanksgiving.

An apple and green tomato crumble pie (filling recipe here)

A chocolate pudding pie that was a HUGE hit (recipe here)

And a cherry-berry pie (recipe here).  I used frozen cherries and blueberries and made sure to squeeze ALL the juice out.

All three used Smitten Kitchen’s all-butter pie crust, although I did half-and-half with lard as well as a few tablespoons of cream cheese, just to keep things interesting.

While the chocolate pudding pie was far and away the favorite, the other pies also garnered rave reviews.  I don’t think of myself as a desserts person, as far as making or eating, but maybe I need to change this view of myself and my abilities.

There are very few recipes I get from Smitten Kitchen (Deb Perelman) that aren’t a slam dunk.  I even made her banana bread this morning (sans Bourbon since it was for the kids).

Update on kugelhopf au lard

Ever since Mr. Bread Maiden got this cookbook, I’ve been making kugelhopf au lard.  We mostly call it bacon bread, and it’s been a staple of mine any time I have to give a gift.  IMG_9822

This is what it looks like in the book, clearly made in a bundt pan.  For a long time, I didn’t own a bundt pan.  That changed this weekend.


Up until now, I’ve only ever made this bread in normal bread loaf pans.  But I couldn’t wait to try it the way it was intended to be made.IMG_9815IMG_9818IMG_9821

Could’ve incorporated the bacon, shallots and sage a bit more in the finished dough, but otherwise it’s flaky, buttery, bacony and lovely.  The presentation really takes it over the top!

Chocolate zucchini bread

IMG_9824IMG_9827[1]I hope to make this again so I can document the steps more clearly and with pictures.  However, for now this will have to suffice so I can be sure to find the recipe again.

From this recipe at SimplyRecipes.com

You will need:

4 cups grated zucchini, water squeezed out

2.5 cups AP flour

1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon ground coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour one bundt pan or two regular-size bread loaf pans
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cocoa in an extra large bowl.  Add chocolate chips.
  4. Beat sugar and eggs for one minute, then add the butter, coffee and vanilla.  Stir until combined.
  5. Add zucchini to the sugar-egg mixture, then gently add zucchini-sugar-egg mixture to the dry ingredient bowl.  Combine with a spatula until just mixed, then pour into prepared pans.
  6. Bake 50-70 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, let rest ten minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a cooling rack.


Pesto bread with tomato water


This year our tomato plants went crazy. We tried coring and freezing them like we’ve done in years past, but they quickly took over the freezer.  So we’ve been cooking them down and freezing the stewed tomatoes instead, which takes up a quarter of the room of the cored tomatoes.IMG_9626

Yesterday, our pot overflowed and I had to scoop lots of tomato water out.  Mr. Bread Maiden was wondering if it would be possible to use the tomato water in bread.  We thought it would complement my pesto bread, which I baked for last year’s Arlington County Fair.


I used my typical white bread recipe for the base, Ina Garten’s good white bread.  Where she calls for water and milk, I used the (cooled) tomato water instead.


After the dough came together, I knead it for a little bit since it has so much yeast, I knew it would rise quickly and I wanted enough gluten formation.  After 15 minutes, I re-shaped it so it would be nice and smooth. Then I covered the bowl and let it rise for two hours outside on my covered porch.IMG_9632

When the dough was ready, I divided it in two halves, one to be shaped into a babka and one to be shaped into a provitica, a shape I’d seen on The Great British Baking Show.

Here’s how I did the babka:


After rolling up the dough and cinching it shut, I used my pastry scraper to divide it in half and twisted the two halves together to form the pattern you see below.  This is what I did last year for my fair presentation.IMG_9636

For the provitica, I knew I had to roll the dough out way flatter for a bigger sheet.  You can see how I did it:


Sadly, I got a few tears because I didn’t knead enough.  Next time!IMG_9639IMG_9640IMG_9642

Once the dough is rolled up, coil it in the buttered pan and let rise another 45 minutes or so.  IMG_9643

Brush each dough with egg wash, then bake the doughs in a 375 degree F oven for however long it takes, 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.


Pretty happy with how both of these turned out!

Now for the inside of the provitica:


How beautiful is that??  Worth the effort.

The tomato water added a nice warm hue to the dough, but I would not have noticed it unless I knew it was in there.  Still, I was a little worried because tomato water does not have the same compounds as milk, and I wanted to make sure the yeast was not overwhelmed by the acid.  Clearly, that was not a problem.  I may do this again!

Arlington County Fair 2017

FullSizeRenderSorry for the long hiatus, friends!

I didn’t stop baking, I just took a little break from blogging about it.  I hope this post will jump-start the creative process again!


The boys dropping off my breads at the Fair last year.  Look at how much they’ve grown!

This year, as I have off and on for the past six years, I submitted an entry to the Arlington County Fair’s baking competition.  Every year somehow I end up getting 2nd place, but it doesn’t bother me.  Mostly I enjoy the challenge and getting to compare my bakes against the other entries.  IMG_5058

The thing that was different this year was that my older son, Little Bread Dude, decided he wanted to enter the competition as well.  We brainstormed a recipe and decided on the Hide and Seek Muffins from Mollie Katzen’s amazing Pretend Soup cookbook for young children.  I made sure he knew he would have to make and do everything himself, and he seemed ready for the challenge!

So that left me trying to figure out what to make.  I’d been thinking about our employee bake-off and how to wow the judges of that competition, so I decided to use the County Fair as a trial-run for our employee bake-off.  If the Fair judges liked my recipe, I would use it again.

Based on talks with several friends, I decided to make s’mores kolaches.  It seemed easy; after all, it’s just a soft dough wrapped around chocolate and marshmallows. What could go wrong?


Plenty, as it turns out.  I tried whipping up my own dough with crushed graham crackers and ended up with a tough dough more resembling a pie crust than a soft bread dough.  I tried to make it work (see above) but it just wasn’t happening so I scrapped it and started over.  My second dough, based on this recipe, was much better.  I added half the amount of crushed graham crackers I had before, as well as extra molasses, honey and cinnamon and it worked out well.20914206_10101290108873347_1789835943340217018_nIMG_9517

Little Bread Toddler really liked them, ha ha!

Each step presented its own challenges. I gave up on the idea of the filled kolaches because the marshmallows would disappear into the dough when they cooked, leaving a large gaping hole.  I tried making chocolate mousse but it didn’t set.  The chocolate glaze ended up working well, but I wish I hadn’t put so much effort and time into that mousse!  Then there was getting the right amount of roast on the marshmallows.  I also rolled my kolache dough in egg, then cinnamon and sugar to get more graham cracker flavor.  I made enough kolaches (more than enough!) so I could pick the best ones to enter to the Fair.

Once my kolaches looked right, then it was time to help LBD with his muffins.  I set out the tools and ingredients he would need, then let him work.  I also took videos in case there was a dispute over whether or not he had made them himself.  I thought the biggest challenge would be using a knife to core the strawberries, but he was the most proud of cracking the eggs himself!IMG_9521

I was so proud of him and all his hard work!  We packed them up and woke up early the next morning to drive them to the Fair.  The whole next day I was so nervous to find out the results.  I didn’t really care about how I did, but I wanted to prepare myself to comfort LBD if he didn’t win anything.20914262_10101290108938217_1638133760716947780_n

Imagine our surprise when he won Reserve Grand Champion!


smiling from ear to ear

To explain a bit about the awards process: you enter the Fair under a category within baking.  Say, for example, muffins.  If you win first place in muffins, then your dish is judged among all the first place winners in your age bracket (LBD’s was 6 and under).  So he won among all the 6 and under bakers.  He was pretty excited about it, as you can tell.20915077_10101291463428807_4314104392145540382_n.jpg

And me?  Well, you guessed it:IMG_9537

Another second place ribbon.  But to me the best part of the Fair was that LBD enjoyed it and wants to enter again next year (in the 7 – 12 year old category).  We attended the awards ceremony on Sunday and everyone was so impressed to see a 6-year-old baker.  I hope he continues to enjoy it even if he doesn’t win.IMG_5059

***Edited to add*** I haven’t documented my entries every year, but if you want to read my other posts about entering the County Fair, here are the links:


Turns out I didn’t always win second place after all!




Alpine baguettes

img_6593Big baking day on Saturday!  I made these alpine baguettes, a batch of grape and rosemary focaccia, and regular sourdough for sandwiches.

This recipe comes from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads book, which I’m really liking.  Book review in the works.

I made sure my sourdough was nice and active last night so I could bake this morning.img_6539

For this recipe (makes three baguettes), you will need:img_6541

1/2 cup active starter.  Leader calls for a rye starter, I didn’t have that, so I just added 1/2 cup of rye flour to the recipe and used my all-purpose flour starter.

28g rolled oats

28g pumpkin seeds

28g flax seeds (I had flaxseed meal so I used that)

28g sesame seeds

2 1/4 cups tepid water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

3 1/4 cups bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (Leader likes more salt and I dig it)

I forgot to soak the seeds overnight so I made a quick sponge with the oats, seeds, water, yeast, and sourdough starter.  I let it soak for two hours and saw bubbles on top.


Add the flour and salt to make a dough.  Add more water if necessary.img_6545

I moved the dough to the stand mixer and mixed with the dough hook for 8 minutes, let it rest, then mixed an additional 5-8 minutes.  img_6559

Then I covered the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise 2 – 2 1/2 hours until domed.img_6560img_6566

Divide the dough in thirds by weight and fold like an envelope to rest for 10 minutes before shaping.img_6567

On a floured surface, shape your baguettes to about 12 inches long.img_6570

Transfer to a couche.  I didn’t have one that was long enough so I used my apron.img_6571img_6572img_6573While the dough is in the couche, preheat a pizza stone in the middle and a cast iron skillet on the bottom of the oven at 450 degrees F.  After proofing for an hour in the couche, the loaves looked like this:img_65741

Move the baguettes to pizza stone.  This is easier said than done.img_6579img_6581

And score them in long lines with a razor blade.img_6582img_6583img_6584img_6585

Now throw 3/4 cup of ice cubes into the skillet and bake until crusty and brown, 25-30 minutes.img_6593

We were having such a fantastically sunny day that I decided to take them outside to photograph with the natural light, but it was so bright they appeared washed-out and pale.img_6592

The crumb was really nice, and it was tasty.  IMG_6595.JPG

Grape rosemary and lemon zest focaccia

On the same day I made the alpine baguettes and a few loaves of my regular sourdough (I think my family’s a little exhausted from my constant experimenting!), I also tried out Daniel Leader’s grape harvest focaccia. I threw in the meyer lemon zest because we had it and I thought it would work well with the other flavors.

For this recipe you will need:img_6565

For the dough:

300g tepid water

500g all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

60g olive oil

This recipe is great because most of it occurs in the bowl of the stand mixer.

Pour the water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the flour, olive oil and salt and stir just long enough to blend into a dough.  With the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed until it is supple, smooth and very elastic, about 9 minutes.img_6561

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 to 1.5 hours.  img_6563

While the dough is rising, lightly grease a baking sheet or dish.img_6586

Perfect looking dough!img_6587

Turn the dough out into the baking dish and let sit for five minutes before shaping.img_6588

You’ll also want to prepare the toppings.  Chop the rosemary, zest the lemon, and wash and chop the grapes in half.img_6589

With well-oiled fingers, gently press the dough into the shape of the pan.  It should be very oily.img_6590

Now spread the grapes on top, and sprinkle the lemon zest, rosemary, and sea salt on top of the grapes.  Cover and let rise 30-40 minutes.  15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.img_6591

After 40 minutes, the dough looked like this:IMG_6594.JPG

I slid it into the oven and baked for, I dunno, maybe 50 minutes?  Way longer than the 20-30 minutes Daniel Leader suggested and I wonder if it’s because it was baked in a larger, glass dish.


The afternoon light was perfect, so I brought it outside.img_6599

I cut into it after letting it rest for an hour.  Probably should’ve let it rest longer, but it smelled heavenly.img_6598

The grapes were caramelized and super sweet.  Delish!  Just wish the dough was a bit thinner.  I didn’t like the toppings to bread ratio. img_6600

Some of the grapes were eaten off by Little Bread Toddler so I used the focaccia to scoop out some leftover ratatouille.  It was awesome!

Daniel Leader’s Corn-Rye Rounds

IMG_6517.JPGThis is the last, for a while, book in my most recent push of baking book reviews.  For my review of Dan Leader’s book, Bread Alone, click hereimg_6510

Of the recipes I flagged from this book, I was most interested in this one that combines corn and rye.  The recipe comes from Leader’s chapter on local Italian breads. It made me wish I had access to European flours and small-batch wheat berries.img_6503

In making this recipe, I made the decision to include a bit of sourdough along with the commercial yeast.  I did this because it has rye, and rye is always improved with a bit of the lactobacillus present in a starter.  I discovered, of course, that I wasn’t alone:img_6504

For this recipe, you will need:img_6500

350g lukewarm water, possibly more

1 teaspoon commercial yeast

75g active starter

200g bread flour

200g fine-ground or nixtamalized corn flour

100g rye flour

1 1/2 teaspoons saltimg_6501

This recipe did not have enough water, and I had to add between 50-100 additional grams of water to make a ball of dough.img_6502

This dough, after a bit of kneading, became mostly smooth but I wasn’t expecting it to get much smoother because of the low gluten content of the corn and rye flours.img_6505

After 1.5 or 2 (or 3!) hours, divide the dough in half and put them in separate banettons.  This differs from Leader’s instructions.img_6506

At this point, the dough was extremely sticky and not smooth at all.  I tried my best to shape it into a ball but I wasn’t overly concerned about it.img_6507

After half an hour, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone and baking sheet inside.img_6509

I flipped the dough onto the pizza stone and scored it with a razor blade, then closed the oven door as I collected a 1/2 cup of ice cubes.  Then I opened it again and poured the ice cubes into the baking sheet.  I baked the dough for about 35 minutes until it was completely baked.img_6511img_6512img_6513

The bread didn’t rise very much, but I already expected that because of the low gluten levels of the corn and rye flour.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how SOUR this bread was.img_6516

Looking back, I should’ve known.  The corn flour I used was treated with lime, and I did use rye flour which also has a sour taste.  My sourdough starter typically isn’t very sour so I don’t think that was the culprit, but the lactobacillus also didn’t break down the starches sufficiently enough to release any sweetness from the flour.  It’s possible that because I didn’t soak the flour overnight before mixing up the dough, I contributed to the sour taste.  When I asked Mr. Bread Maiden if he thought I should start over and soak the flour, he shrugged.  I think he thought it wouldn’t change the flavor enough.

If someone does decide to make this recipe, here are my tips:

Don’t use lime-treated (masa or nixtamalized) corn flour.

Use more sourdough starter.  Someone online used nearly two cups of starter for two loaves.

Soak the flour overnight so the enzymes in the flour start to break down the starches.

Let me know if you do decide to make this bread, and how it turns out.  For me, it was interesting but I just don’t think I’ll make it again.

Michael Pollan’s Whole Wheat Country Loaf


One quibble about the name of this bread: it’s not a whole wheat bread.  It has rye flour.  I dunno. Anyway, I thought I should try it since I did review Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked.img_6317

Since I was making two different doughs at once (Pollan’s and Sam Fromartz’s Turkey Red Miche) I labeled them so as not to get confused which bread I was taking a picture of.img_6430img_6431

I did an overnight starter for Pollan’s bread and Fromartz’s bread.  Look at the difference!  One is a loose, high hydration leaven and one is a stiff leaven.img_6432img_6318

Here is my dough the morning of the day I planned to bake.  I still had the starter separated, but I mixed up the whole wheat flour, AP flour and rye flours of the final dough and did a short autolyse before adding the salt and starter to it.img_6444img_6445Here is the final dough immediately after adding the salt and starter.  Each time I did a stretch and fold to Fromartz’s dough, I did one to Pollan’s dough.img_6452img_6319

After one stretch and fold:img_6453

After the second stretch and fold:img_6454

I did two more stretch and folds.  I could really feel the gluten developing.  Certainly more than my home-ground flour dough right next to this one!

This made me laugh.  I guess I’m not the best at dividing without weighing the doughs.img_6469


This is the inside.  You can thank sourdough starter for the light, airy crumb of an otherwise dense bread.    The only improvement would be to give the flours a longer autolyse.  The book tells you to soak the flours overnight, but since I lack reading comprehension I didn’t realize this was a step until this morning.  I did a short, one-hour autolyse which was ok but didn’t provide enough time for the starches in the flour to convert to natural sugars.

Overall, though, this was a delicious bread.  Bravo, Michael Pollan.

Samuel Fromartz’s Turkey Red Miche (adapted)


As my book reviews have gone on, I haven’t been able to find the time to make more than one or two recipes from each book.  Sometimes I skip the general recipes or the sourdough recipes; I know what my sourdough tastes like.  I may make the baguette recipe in Sam Fromartz’s book In Search of the Perfect Loaf, but mostly it was the Turkey Red Miche recipe that intrigued me:img_6412

I still have some whole wheat berries left over that I bought in Texas a long time ago, so I decided to try making them into flour.  img_6413

This was easier said than done.  img_6422

Here was my set-up with the spice grinder, sifter, and bowl to collect the flour.  It took a long time and only resulted in barely the amount (120 grams) I needed for the leaven.img_6423img_6424img_6414

Here is the leaven.  I let it sit overnight.  It really sucked up the water and made a very stiff leaven.img_6428img_6415

On the second day, you grind up another 480g of flour for the final dough.  I ran out of wheat berries (and patience!) so I mixed it with whole ground bulgur, store-bought whole wheat flour, and flaxseed meal.img_6436img_6437img_6439

The one thing that was interesting about the recipe is making a little indentation in the dough with flour and measure the salt and add 25 g of warm water to dissolve the salt.  Then mix the salt water into the rest of the dough.img_6441

I was doing two doughs at once, so to keep my photos from getting confused I labeled them with post-its.  Every 30 minutes for four hours, do one stretch and fold to the dough.  I was actually surprised by how cohesive the dough felt, with only a minimum of AP flour (20% of the total flour by weight) to provide a gluten boost.  The other thing I was surprised about was how much stronger the dough smelled.  Fromartz talks about freshly-milled flour as more assertive than store-bought grain and it was true in this case, even with wheat berries that were nearly 10 years old.img_6438

I added a bit more water because the dough was just so stiff.img_6455

After a few hours of periodic stretching and folding, I flattened out the dough on a floured counter.  I divided it in two pieces.  Then I folded the edges together to make a seam.img_6456img_6457

I placed the dough in a floured banetton (you could also use a bowl with a floured towel inside).  I preheated the oven to 500 degrees F with a pizza stone inside for an hour.img_6458

At this point, I was a little confused.  I mean, I always thought a miche was an enormous, pounds-heavy loaf.  After some research, I found I wasn’t wrong – a miche is typically a large round loaf.  But it can also be defined as “a round loaf made from a natural leavening that also has a high percentage of whole wheat flour in it.”  This definitely fits the bill in that sense.img_6416

Overall, I was pleased with the rise and oven spring of the loaves.img_6460img_6462

You can even see the gluten formation in the bottom loaf in this picture:img_6465

When I couldn’t take it anymore and cut into the loaf, I was pleased to discover a nicely textured crumb that wasn’t dense at all.  The flavor was spectacular- very hearty but not bitter at all.  The bread had no sweetener added but had just a touch of sweetness from the wheat itself.IMG_6468.JPG

Unfortunately this dough used up the last of my wheat berries and I’m not sure where I can get more, but once I do track some down (hopefully milled this time!) I would be interested in making this bread again.