Pressure-cooker wheat berries

When Mr. Bread Maiden and I lived in Austin, we got to a point in our first year when we made the switch from mostly grocery-store bought meals, to mostly farmer’s market-bought meals.

It wasn’t easy.  Well, in a way it was.

We had an amazing garden for all our herbs and vegetables, and we would buy our meat and dairy at the farmer’s market.

Austin was also where I began my bread journey on the way to becoming Bread Maiden!

I miss this place

 The Austin Farmer’s Market was unique in that it had weird things like, say, wheat berries for sale. 

Wheat berries, according toWikipedia, are “the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm.”  

http://www.ncwheatmontanacoop.com/order/bronzechiefwheatberries25lbbag-p-190.html

 I tried using wheat berries for baking by grinding them up, but they didn’t have enough gluten to rise a loaf of bread.  So there’s been a bag of them in my pantry from Austin, to Warwick Village, and now to Del Ray.

Don’t tell Slow Learner, but Mr. Bread Maiden and I are making her a ton of granola bars for her birthday.  Post to come!

But anyway, we were rooting around the pantry for grains to use in the granola, and we came across the wheat berries.

Mr. Bread Maiden suggested we cook them as a grain for dinner, which is exactly what we did.

We turned to this book: Passionate Vegetarian, by (no joke) Crescent Dragonwagon.

The book is really excellent and a nearly comprehensive review of vegetarian cuisine, whether bean, grain, seed, or rhizome.

Basically, by following her recipe we didn’t follow her recipe at all.

First, I rinsed the wheat berries and picked out all the hulls.  It’s easy to do; cover the berries with water and swish it around with your hand; the hulls rise to the top and you can pick them out.

I threw about two cups of wheat berries into my pressure cooker, then poured in about 8 cups of water and chicken stock.

Put the pressure cooker on medium-high heat until you reach pressure, then turn it down to medium and cook for about 35 minutes.

Apropos of nothing, my pressure cooker is a “presto.”  I like it.

Once the wheat berries are done, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and wait for the pressure valve to release.

Wheat berries, once cooked, have a nice, chewy texture.

Rinse the berries and chop up an herb (we used parsley).

Throw the parsley and salt into the wheat berries, and you have a dish rich in dietary fiber, iron, vitamin C and whole grain.

We ate ours with sauerkraut and pork chops.  Very tasty and incredibly easy!

Beef Liver Paté

I know, I know.

This is not a post about bread.

BUT!


It is a post about what to put ON bread.

The Bread Maiden family has a ton of beef liver in the freezer, just looking to be made into paté.

When I found this recipe on Casa Veneración, I knew I just had to try it.

I made some modifications.  You will need:

Ingredients

This picture includes two things you will not need in the recipe.  Sorry.
  • 1 lb beef liver, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • One stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1/4 c. of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of dried tarragon
  • 3/4 c. of cream

Instructions

1. Unwrap beef liver.

 

2. Place the liver in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then simmer GENTLY until one side of each piece of liver is a light tan.  You need to pay attention during this step.  
 
 
3. Remove each piece as it reaches this color and place in a bowl.  Do not overcook. Don’t worry about not cooking them; they’ll get about 20 minutes in the oven later on.
 
4. Preheat the oven to 375F.
 
5. Start boiling a kettle of water.
 
6. Melt half of the butter in a small frying pan. Saute the onion, shallot, and celery until translucent. Turn off the heat and add the rest of the butter. Let cool.
 
 
7. Throw the sauteed mixture and the liver in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
 
I pureed the liver first.
 
Then added the vegetables.
8. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. 
 
 
9.  Spoon into ramekins.
 
 
10. Prepare the water bath. Place the ramekins in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into the baking dish, taking care not to spill any on the liver mixture, until the depth is about three-quarters of the height of the ramekins.
 
10. Bake at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes.
 
 
11. Cool the liver paté on a cooling rack. Touch the top of each paté gently to make sure it has set up properly.  Once they are cool, cover the ramekins with cling wrap and store in the refrigerator.
 
 
12. Use the liver paté as a spread or for liver-based sauces. When they come out of the oven they are sort-of an unappetizing gray-brown, but once you spoon into the paté, it’s a beautiful pink color.
 
 
I should mention at this point that I dislike the taste of liver.  Really don’t like it.  But Mr. Bread Maiden and Little Bread Baby like it, so I make it.  And this really wasn’t too bad.  This piece of bread with paté on it, in the photo below? I ate that once I snapped the picture.  Topped with lots of cheese to mask the flavor of the liver, of course.

The original recipe calls for chicken livers instead of beef liver, so that would work equally well here.  I think if a liver recipe is good enough that even *I* will eat it, then it’s a winner!

Jamaican Black Cake

 The past few years, Slow Learner (actually Mr. Bread Maiden’s mother) and I have been celebrating Christmas by baking a batch of fruitcake.

Fruitcake, if you don’t know, is that much-maligned dessert bread chock full of fruit, nuts, spices, and a whole lotta alcohol.  When you think (or, before meeting Mr. Bread Maiden’s kin, what I THOUGHT) of fruitcake looked something like this:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/fruitcakesec.htm

I don’t even know what those green and red things are.

But all that changed.  Well, not the part about the green and red things.  I don’t know if I want to know what those are.

The story goes, Slow Learner got the recipe from (you guessed it) Alton Brown.

http://www.politico.com/click/stories/0910/brown_gets_political.html

Starting a few months ahead, she bakes the loaves and then once a week gives each loaf a spritz of brandy, which as an added bonus helps preserve it.  By the time Christmas rolls around, those things are good and smothered in the stuff. She serves it with whipped cream and more spritzes of brandy.

If you want to make the world’s best fruitcake, Alton’s recipe is here.

This year I’ll be leaving the fruitcake-making to the expert.

Instead of making fruitcake this year, I decided to try my hand at a different type of fruit-alcohol-spices-bread combination.

I found a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake, which as one person online so eloquently phrased it, “is what fruitcake wants to be when it grows up.”

I got the above picture from a google images search and then was sucked into this website.  It shows why this cake bears more than a passing resemblance to British Christmas puddings.

Not too sweet, made with spiced rum instead of brandy, and mixed with some heaping spoonfuls of molasses, the recipe made my little Latin Americanist heart sing.

http://www.amazon.com

The recipe began here, but I made quite a few alterations along the way.

The cake also goes by Trinidadian or West Indies Black Cake.

You will need:

FOR THE DRIED FRUIT

3 cups dried fruit
3/4 cup spiced rum
zest from one lemon

A few days before you want to bake the cake, put about zest and dried fruit in a large plastic zip-top bag with spiced rum.  Suck all the air out of the bag before closing.  Let sit in the fridge for a few days.

FOR THE DOUGH

1/2 lb butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsps dark molasses (the original recipe calls for browning, but I didn’t have any)
1 tsp vanilla
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
dash of rum 
1/4 cup slivered almonds 

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and position a tray in the middle of your oven.  Butter two loaf pans. 

2. In one large bowl, whip the butter, sugar, vanilla and molasses. Set aside.

3. In a second medium bowl, whip the eggs with a dash of rum.  Set aside.

4. In a third medium bowl, mix together the dried ingredients.  Set aside.

5. Add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar mixture.

6. Add your rum-soaked fruit and nuts to the wet mixture.

7. A little bit at a time, add the flour to the batter and fold it with a spatula to lightly combine.

8. Divide your dough into the two loaf pans, and bake for 90 minutes or until the top is firm.

In order to make sure both loaves would bake equally, I used a kitchen scale to divide them by weight.

9. Let the loaves cool about 30 minutes in the pan, then take them out and let them rest on a cooling rack.  Since it was already 10:30pm and I was tired, I let them rest overnight.

My first thought was, “those aren’t as dark as I was hoping.”  I think if I had used dark rum, the “browning,” brown sugar, or blackstrap molasses, they would’ve been darker.

YUM.

10. After they are cool, pour a good jigger of rum over the top of each cake and store in a plastic zip-top bag.  The alcohol acts as a preservative, so pour on!  The cake really absorbs a lot of liquid, so don’t be stingy.

Even though they aren’t as dark as they’re supposed to be, when we took a bite this morning the cake was very tasty.  Success!  If I don’t post before then, Bread Maiden and family wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Finger paint

Maybe I should post a disclaimer right here: this is not a post about bread. Those who are looking for a bread recipe should just wait a few more days.  Bread Maiden has a post about biscuits that just needs a few more pictures before it can be published.  Sit tight.

For now, I want to talk finger paint.

When Little Bread Baby gets bored at mealtime, he loves smearing his food around his tray. 

So I was inspired to let him release his creative impulses in a constructive way, and maybe get some art for papa’s office.

There was just one little problem.

How can I keep finger paint out of LBB’s mouth?

I can’t.  And many (most?) homemade finger paint recipes I found online included some sort of detergent or dish soap to give it the right texture and shine.  Even though dish soap is non-toxic, I didn’t really know how much LBB would be eating, rubbing in his eyes, etc.

I ended up finding one edible finger paint recipe.

It was here.

The recipe only requires flour, water, and salt.  And food coloring.

I found some all-natural food coloring at MOM’s.

Here’s what you do.

As you can see above, you need:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Saucepan
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Wire whisk
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • Food coloring

  1. Put flour and salt in the saucepan.
  2. Add cold water and beat with whisk until you get out all the lumps.
  3. Add hot water, turn the burner to low, and stir until it comes to a boil and the mixture is thick. 

4. Let the mixture cool.
5. At this point, you can either leave the mixture uncolored until you want to use it, or color as desired with food coloring.
6. Store covered in refrigerator.

 Here is my chilled finger paint.  After resting for 24 hours, it was pretty thick.  I spooned out about a tablespoon of goo into each bowl, then added about a tablespoon of water and mixed it up until it was the right consistency.

Then I added the food coloring.

The green was a little odd, but fine.  Next time I will probably add more food coloring so the paint is more vibrant.

Here is the work station before picture.

More interested in the newspaper than painting.

Ah well.

I mentioned adding more food coloring to the paint next time, because the colors were very muted.  Still, a good first effort. Once he decided he was interested in the painting, it held his attention for a good five minutes.  I consider that a success!

This recipe also makes a TON of paint, so we will have enough paint for many more art projects!

Graham Crackers

I have been meaning to write this entry for a while.  Finding the time to sit down and write is difficult when you have to wait for naptime.

This entry actually has to do with Little Bread Baby (LBB).  Also Little Bread Niece (LBN).  Here is a story about Little Bread Niece.

This is a picture of Little Bread Niece about a year ago.  She has a soy sensitivity which means her mother needs to be extra vigilant about ingredients in her food.  This usually means most of what she eats is homemade.  Not that that’s a bad thing, of course.

LBB so far does not have any food allergies or sensitivities, but I think it’s safe to say our family is more aware than most people about what goes into our food.  I decided to make graham crackers for Little Bread Baby after reading the labels of so-called natural and organic baby snacks.

These graham crackers are incredibly easy, and have no weird preservatives in  them.  I keep them in a plastic bag that I can throw in my purse or the diaper bag before heading out to the park.

Another bonus is that the recipe comes from Alton Brown, one of our favorite celebrity chefs (the only one we can really tolerate) on Food Network.

It has been slightly modified, but the original recipe is here.

The recipe is basically like a pie dough.

For those of you who think “pie dough is so hard to make,” fear not.

The food processor is your friend.

You will need:

The tools
A kitchen scale
Baking sheets
Parchment paper
Wax paper
Rolling pin
Food processor

The butter

3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled

The dry ingredients

8 3/8 ounces graham flour.  You can find graham flour at Whole Foods or other specialty store.
1 7/8 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The wet ingredients
1 1/8 ounces molasses
1 1/8 ounces honey
1 1/2 ounces whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. 

 

Before I go on, I would just like to point out that for the first time, I MADE MY OWN brown sugar.  Crazy, I know. 
Ok, moving on.

2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.



3. Add the molasses, honey, milk and vanilla extract.


4. Process until the dough forms a ball, approximately 1 minute.

At first, the dough looks like this:

Then this:

Then this.

5. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Unwrap the chilled dough and place it onto a large piece of wax paper and top with a second sheet of wax paper.


7. Roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick.

8. Remove the top sheet of wax paper and either cut the dough into squares using a rolling pizza cutter or do what I did, making little circles with a small biscuit cutter.  Your choice.  Put the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do NOT use wax paper for baking or your cookies will turn out all waxy and gross.

This is what you get when you ask your husband to take an action shot of you cutting out the cookies.

8.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven.  Depending on how thin your cookies are, bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once completely cool, break into individual crackers and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


 Aren’t those lovely?  And LBB loves them.  We can take them anywhere for an easy snack that everyone likes.  And even though it does take some time to roll out and bake, the food processor makes quick work of the dough.

Torta di Riso Salata

 It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention.  I think it’s true.  Although many of our inventions make me wonder if I really *NEEDED* them in my life.

For example, we went through a period cooking-wise when the finishing touch to a dish always involved wrapping it somehow in bacon.  Delicious, but we certainly did not NEED the extra bacon-y goodness.

However, this is a different story.

I need to find a way to get Little Bread Baby (soon to be Little Bread Toddler) to eat a whole ton of rice.  Mr. Bread Maiden decided that LBB was not getting enough carbs in his diet, so he made a big vat of brown rice and then left town for four days.

 LBB was not impressed with the rice.  What to do?

Go to the internets.

I had a shady recollection of having once in my life eaten something like a “rice pie.” 

With Mr. Bread Maiden out of town, I didn’t have a ton of ingredients or motivation to acquire ingredients.  I had a bunch of eggs and a bunch of rice.

Ok, that’s getting there.  I don’t have the bread crumbs or ricotta though.  But now I have a name for what I’m looking for.  Torta di Riso.

Unfortunately, using Torta di Riso as my search term means everything comes up looking like this:

 I guess that’s ok.  My knowledge of other romance languages can help me figure out most of it.

However, now I’ve come to another problem.  All of these Tortas di riso are sweet.

 This is a perfectly lovely torta di riso with raisins, but not really what I’m looking for.

Not to worry.  Since I want something savory, I added “salata” at the end and tried again.

Boom.  Here we go.

This is easy enough to figure out.  Formaggio looks like “fromage,” I know the word “latte,” and “uova” sounds just like “huevo.” 

The recipe itself is where things get tricky. My Italian is simply not good enough to parse this one out.

So I employed the help of Google Translate.

“The cake should not be too colorful.”  Ha.
Using this translation as a guide, here is the final recipe I used.  This recipe calls for a pie crust but I didn’t use one.
7 eggs
500 gr. cooked rice
200 gr. Grated cheese (I used mild cheddar)
100 gr. Melted butter
500 ml. milk (I messed up and added 500 grams of milk, but it turned out fine)
pepper

Salt
11. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

P2. Put rice in a mixing bowl.

33. Beat the whole eggs, then add them along with the grated cheese, melted butter, pepper and salt to the rice.
44. Add the cold milk to the rice mixture, then pour into a greased pie pan.  
At this point I was a little nervous that it was going to be too runny and not set properly.
5.5. Place the pan in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 375 after 15 minutes.  Continue baking for another 45 minutes or until brown and crunchy on top.  Serve warm.

I didn’t have anything to worry about.  The rice pie ended up delicious.

Once it cooled, it became very easy to slice.

Most importantly, LBB LOVED it.

Look at all that rice I used.  The recipe called for ALL of the rice (I’m guessing I had about 4-5 cups of cooked rice) to make two pies.

I think next time, if I want to make the recipe for grown-ups, I will add more seasoning or vegetables.  It’s a little bland.

So, in conclusion, creative use of the internets can result in a nutritious meal with a few staple ingredients.  I don’t think I would make this if I didn’t already have a TON of cooked rice lying around, but since I did, it was easy to whip up.

Before I go, I’ve been asked to provide links to screenshots I publish here.

Mario Batali’s recipe for torta di riso is here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/rice-pie-torta-di-riso-recipe/index.html

Here is the recipe for torta di riso with raisins: http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Torta-di-riso.html

And here is the recipe I ended up using (minus the crust): http://www.ricettepercucinare.com/ricetta_toscana-torta_di_riso_salata.htm

Puff Pastry II


Now that we’ve made our puff pastry (if you haven’t, check out my recipe here).

We have lots of options.

This is a lot of puff pastry.


Since we have a ton of beef in the freezer that we need to get rid of, we decided to make Beef Wellington.


Our recipe is from one of our favorite cookbooks, MEAT by James Peterson. This is one of those recipes that you might want a partner to help you with, just so you can get dinner on the table before 10pm. Most of the parts can be done simultaneously, like making the duxelles, rolling the dough, and seasoning the meat.

What you need:
A defrosted puff pastry, about the pliability of pie dough.
1.5 lbs of cremini mushrooms
About 5 tablespoons of butter
A shallot or two
A beef tenderloin
Salt
Pepper
One egg (for an egg wash)
Flour (for dusting)

TENDERLOIN
1. Take the beef tenderloin and rub in some salt and pepper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.


DUXELLES
2. Put the mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until they are all minced up. Or mince them with a knife. Your choice.
3. Heat up a frying pan to medium heat. Melt about two tablespoons in the pan, then add a handful of the mushroom mash. Keep stirring it around. The mushrooms will absorb the butter, then start to release it. When they start releasing liquid, add another handful of mushroom mash and some butter. Repeat until all the mushrooms are cooked.
4. Once they are cooked, put them into a bowl and put in the refrigerator to cool down.


DOUGH
5. Either dust your countertop liberally with flour, or lay down some wax paper and dust THAT with flour. Take your puff pastry, lay it on the counter or wax paper, and dust the top with flour. If you are using wax paper, now lay another sheet on top of the dough.
6. Start to slowly roll out the dough with a rolling pin. The wax paper is nice for this, but you do have to keep adding flour to keep it from sticking.
7. You want it REALLY thin. Like, 1/4 inch thick.

ASSEMBLING THE BEEF WELLINGTON
8. Take your cooled duxelle mixture and spread it onto the dough.


As you can see, the dough rolled out is about the size of two cookie sheets.


Spread out the duxelles using a spatula.


9. Now take your seasoned tenderloin and lay it on the edge of the duxelle mixture.


10. Carefully fold the dough over the tenderloin.


11. Cut off the overlapping sides of the dough to make a nice little package.


Don’t worry, little scraps of puff pastry. I have something special planned for you.


12. Mix up the egg wash and spread it over the dough. Slash the dough and put in the oven.


13. When you take the pan out of the oven in about 40 minutes (internal temp. between 120-125), it should look something like this:


Mr. Bread Maiden was upset it was a little more done than he would’ve liked, but it was truly delicious.


While you are letting your Beef Wellington rest, let’s get back to those dough scraps. You haven’t just thrown them away, have you?

Because here is what you do with the scraps.

Wait for it.

Mini croissants.

Roll out the scraps and form into small triangles. Roll up the triangles and carefully place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Pop the sheet into the refrigerator to rest the dough a little bit. For this part you can crowd the croissants a little bit, but make sure to spread them into two or three baking sheets before baking them to giving them room to rise in the oven.


Preheat the oven to 425. Slide in the croissants, then bump the temperature down to 375. Bake until brown and flaky, about 15-20 minutes.

Here are the croissants. I forgot to take pictures of them when they came out of the oven, but here they are a few days later and still looking fabulous.


These are best warm from the oven with jam. You want some sort of sweetener, since puff pastry dough doesn’t have much sugar or salt in it.


I don’t know the next time I’ll make puff pastry. It isn’t difficult but it does take some time. That said, homemade trumps ANYTHING you can buy in the store. But you knew that already 😉

Puff Pastry


I don’t watch a ton of Food Network anymore. It’s not that the shows aren’t entertaining; they are.


But I feel like I’ve outgrown it.


Back when Mr. Bread Maiden and I were dating, I didn’t know how to cook. And I certainly didn’t bake.

He introduced me to Alton Brown, nerdy food-scientist. And from there, a food journey began.


But I’m so bored by the offerings now, and often disappointed at the results. Not to brag, but Mr. Bread Maiden and I often cook and bake food that looks better than what these celebrity chefs make. And I’m left wishing that they would, just a little, EXPAND my kitchen knowledge.

Like they did before.

There are still tons of things I’ve never made before.

Like, most world cuisine. I dunno, casseroles. Profiteroles. Sole. Mole. Lots of things!

One of those things is puff pastry.

Food network appears to not want to touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole.

This is my search for puff pastry on food network.


Hey, Ina Garten has a recipe for puff pastry; that looks promising.


But the recipe calls for frozen puff pastry.

A recipe for real, homemade puff pastry isn’t until page 2.

Friends, this is a shame.

Because, as Mr. Bread Maiden and I learned on Sunday, homemade puff pastry is DAMN TASTY.

I used this recipe, from White on Rice Couple.

You will need:

Butter Block Ingredients
1 lb + 3 1/2 T (510g) cold unsalted Butter
2 t (10ml) Lemon Juice
pinch of Salt
1 c (130g) Bread Flour

Dough Ingredients
3 c (400g) Bread Flour, approximately
3 1/2 T (55g) soft unsalted Butter
2 t Salt
1 c (240ml) cold Water

Make Butter Block

1. In mixer w/ paddle attachment, work butter lemon juice, salt, and flour into a smooth paste.

2. On a sheet of wax paper, roughly form an approx. 6″ square with the butter block mixture. Lay another piece of wax paper on top and smooth out the square & straighten the sides. Peel back each wax paper sheet & re-lay as it wrinkles to keep a smooth, even surface. After block’s thickness & sides are even, refrigerate until firm.


Make the dough

1. Sift flour onto your work surface. Cut the butter into the flour until it looks like course crumbs.

2. Now it’s kind of like making fresh pasta. Shape into a mound, then make a well in the center of the mound. Add the salt & cold water into the well, then with a fork, use a whisking motion to gradually incorporate the well’s sides into the water.


When it starts to form a solid mass, finish incorporating the flour by kneading. Incorporate just until it is still sticky and has a rough texture. Adjust the water & flour as needed. Try to knead as little as possible. Puff pastry likes a lazy kneader.


3. Form dough into a ball, remember-knead as little as possible.


Flatten the ball a bit, then cut a cross halfway through the dough. Wrap it up in plastic wrap & let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.


You’ll want the Butter Block to have approximately the same consistency as the Dough, after the dough is rested.


You don’t want the butter rock hard, but not mushy soft, either. A dough that is softer than the butter will stretch while the butter doesn’t. If the butter is softer than the dough, it will be pushed out the sides. Either suck to some degree. You may have to adjust chill/resting times for either dough or butter block so they are about the same. Kitchen temp., how long it took to make the dough, fridge temp., all affect the consistency of the Butter Block & Dough. Figure out adjustments to make so they’ll work together homogeneously. It may take a time or two, but you’ll get the hang of it.

Assembly

1. Pull the corners of the cuts out of the dough ball to make a square shape. Roll the dough out to a square slightly thicker in the center than on the sides, and slightly larger than the butter block.


2. Place the butter block diagonally on the dough square, so that the butter corners are pointed at the middle of the dough sides. Fold the uncovered dough corners over the butter block to completely envelop the butter. Pinch the seams tightly together to seal in the butter.


3. Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick. Remember to keep dusting with flour whenever needed to keep the dough from sticking & tearing the layers.

4. Size up your rectangle visually into 3. Fold one third over the middle, then fold the opposite third over. Just like a tri-fold brochure. Try to have everything as even as possible. All the edges should match fairly closely. Put on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.


5. Roll out to 1/2″ thick and repeat the fold. Don’t forget to flour as you roll. Plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat this for a total five roll & folds.


6. After the last fold, roll the rectangle out to about 3/4″. If it is difficult, put dough in the fridge for a bit to relax the gluten. If using immediately, cover, rest in fridge for about 30 minutes, then use as needed. If it’s for later, cut into sections big enough but that still fit easily in your freezer (usually just in half), layer with wax paper between sections, freezer bag it, & store until needed.

7. If you’re going to bake it now, roll out the dough pretty flat and cut into triangles.


8. Roll up the triangles and smear with egg wash.


9. Throw them in an oven preheated to 425, for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.


Lordy lord.


These are amazing. SOOO tender and flaky. They almost fall apart they are so flaky. Butter oozes out of these and they were incredible warm from the oven. Mr. Bread Maiden, who initially wanted to use the puff pastry for a Beef Wellington, immediately changed his mind in favor of more croissants. While it was definitely time-consuming, I think I would make puff pastry again. Maybe next time I will double the recipe so I can freeze one and use one. I can already see uses for this dough: pies, croissants (of course), strudels, pot pies. Stay tuned.

Shortbread and Shaun of the Dead


Sometimes I feel like Shaun at the beginning of the movie Shaun of the Dead, where he’s so distracted by other things going on in his life that he fails to notice that everyone is becoming zombies around him. Sometimes he notices little things, but it’s always peripheral, and doesn’t grab his attention until the zombies are (literally) knocking down his door.

That’s how I’ve been feeling about shortbread the past week. Someone will mention it in passing, then I’ll hear a Splendid Table podcast, then I’ll be looking at a news article about Scotland and it’s mentioned. The shortbread is just lurking at the periphery.

Until one day when Mr. Bread Maiden casually mentions, “you know, you could make shortbread.” He’s much more perceptive than I.

And then, because I love Mr. Bread Maiden, I make shortbread.


Also, when I make him things like shortbread he gives me jewelry like the ring in the picture. I can’t complain.

I got this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, a wonderful blog. You can check it out here: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2006/11/shortbread.php

The one thing I did change is I added a bunch more salt, to both the recipe and then I sprinkled it on top of the shortbread before baking it. It moderates the sweetness a bit, which we happen to like.

Shortbread Recipe:

150 grams top-quality butter
70g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
70g stone-ground cornmeal (I used mostly fine-ground but also some coarse-ground)
150g all-purpose flour
a couple teaspoons of kosher salt or sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter a 9.5″ round glass pie pan. Set aside for now.


2. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the flour and whisk together. Set aside.

3. cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in the food processor.


4. Add the cornmeal and pulse until it’s blended in.


5. Add the flour and salt and pulse until it starts coming together but is still flaky and mostly in small balls (not unlike food processor pie crust).


6. Remove the mixture from the food processor onto a clean surface. Gently form into a ball but don’t worry if it doesn’t come together very well.

7. Pat the mixture into the buttered pan so it fills the pan and is flat.


8. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in your fridge until it’s cooled down a bit, maybe 15 minutes.

9. Take it back out from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Flatten out the top and edges a bit, if you need to (I needed to). Poke little holes in the top with a fork and sprinkle with some salt.


10. Put in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden. Mine definitely took the whole 40 minutes.

11. Remove from oven and immediately cut into triangles with a knife.


12. Let it sit until completely cooled.


Don’t let the pictures fool you; it’s still really crumbly. My first few pieces out of the pan were a sacrificial offering to the crumbly shortbread gods.


Conclusions? This recipe is so, so yummy. It doesn’t look like much but it is seriously addictive.


Success. Go make this! Now!

Macarons


This is a bit of a deviation from the usual bread, but since coming home from Paris, I haven’t had the time or enthusiasm for making regular bread. When we get back to Texas things will be more normal.

However, I have been very excited about trying to make authentic Parisian macarons, which I tasted for the first time in Paris.


These gorgeous, multi-colored little cookies are basically a chocolate ganache or other filling sandwiched between two baked meringues mixed with ground-up almonds.


For more about macarons, check out Joe Pastry’s blog: http://joepastry.com/index.php?cat=171. I have found him to be very helpful and he includes a breakdown of macarons, a section on troubleshooting, and the differences between macarons and macaroons, which are two very different things. In sum, the recipe for the meringues comes from Joe Pastry but the ganache is my sister-in-law’s (Mr. Bread Maiden’s sister). Since the recipe isn’t mine, and I don’t make any changes to it, you will have to go to Joe’s site to get it.


Ready? Here we go. To make these, I had the assistance of my sister-in-law, Slow Learner’s daughter (I think she was dubbed Fast Learner a few posts ago), who is a pastry prodigy and who saved the macarons from a dumb mistake on my part. She also made the ganache with her prowess and I bow down to her in basically all things pastry and cookie.


Also she took the pictures.


1. Mix slivered almonds and powdered sugar together in a food processor.

2. Put your egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until you get soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

3. In the bowl of the stand mixer, use a spatula and fold the ground almonds and meringue together.

4. Use a cookie scoop or pastry bag to distribute mixture on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Using Joe Pastry’s recipe I had enough batter for three cookie sheets. Let these sit for 45 minutes to an hour uncovered. The trick to getting the airy “feet” is you want the meringue to dry out and a small crust to form so the air is trapped and has to shoot out underneath. This gives the macaron its traditional and much-sought-after shape.


5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and place trays in the lower-middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes, then take them out and let them cool for at least 30 minutes. It’s really exciting to watch the feet form, because then you know you did it right!


6. CAREFULLY remove the meringues from the parchment and let them sit while you make the ganache. Put the ganache in a pastry bag and pipe out on the bottom of one meringue.


7. Place another meringue on top, being careful not to press it down, even though you’ll want to. The meringues are so delicate you will crush them if you try to exert pressure.


8. Admire how gorgeous YOUR macarons look! Now eat! Or save them and bring them to the Boeuf Bourguignon dinner you have planned for your parents and in-laws. We found that the macarons stiffen up a little bit if you leave them in a cool place for a few hours (it doesn’t have to be the fridge; think a cold room in the house where they will be unbothered).


In any case, these are so yummy and not really that hard to make, although they do dirty up both the food processor and the stand mixer. But such sacrifices are small compared to the deliciousness of homemade macarons.