Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cheddar Cheesemaking

Today is cheddar cheese day.  I am making a 2 lb. block of cheddar to keep in the cheese cave for a few months.  Using a recipe from Gavin Webber's Little Green Cheese website to create this lovely.  I will post pictures after it comes out of the mold, tomorrow.  For today, know that the cheese is currently basking in a 90F water bath until the rennet has set and it is time to cut the curds into 1/2 inch cubes.

Above are the curds after slicing into 1/2 inch dice.

Below- the mass of curds ready for cheddaring -

The whole process of cheesemaking is very much like bread or beer making, time, temperature and cultures combine to transform a food into another more usable and storable form.  Patience is the word in all these endeavors and I enjoy exercising to increase my store of this much needed virtue. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cottage Cheese Onion Dill Bread

We had quite a bit of cheese curd leftover from making a gouda cheese this past week, so I used some of it to make cottage cheese onion dill bread from the Tassajara Recipe Book.  We had also received a big bunch of dill in our Eatwell Farm CSA box that I had dried and I bought a bunch of onions at the farmers market this past week.  I had all the fixings at my disposal along with more King Arthur Bread Flour (I've gone thru buckets of this flour in the past weeks due to Christmas baking).  The bread is in the oven right now for a 55-60 minute bake.  I'll post a picture when the loaves are done.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Soup of the Week - Split Pea with Ham Hocks

Oh it's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring --
It is definitely soup weather.  We received some leeks, and turnips from Eatwell Farm this week, so I decided to use up some of the bounty in a split pea soup. 

Split Pea Soup

2 cups green split peas, washed and drained
2 ham hocks
10 cups chicken broth
2 daikon radishes, diced
6 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
6 white potatoes, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
3 leeks, cut into thin rounds
1 TBSP celery seed
1 TBSP dried parsley
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper
3-4 TBSP olive oil

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil then add the onions and leeks.  Allow these to cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Add the radishes, carrots, celery, celery seed, parsley, Italian seasoning, thyme, salt and black pepper.  Mix thoroughly and 'sweat' the vegetables on low heat with the pot covered for 5-10 minutes, stir once or twice during that time.  Add the chicken broth and enough water to cover the veggies by an inch or so, bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes, split peas and ham hocks.  Reduce heat to a light boil once everything has again come to a full boil.  Cook until peas are tender and ham begins to fall off the ham hocks.  Remove the hocks, cool them.  While they cool, puree the vegetables in the pot with an immersion stick blender or in batches in a regular blender.  Reheat the soup, pick any meat off the ham hocks and return to the pot as well.  Serve with fresh french bread and a salad for a great lunch.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baking and Cooking Today!

Today I made  three batches of chocolate biscotti, one with Splenda for a diabetic friend, the rest followed the recipe from David Lebovitz found here :

For the Splenda version, I did not use the chocolate chips and had to add at least 1/4 cup milk to get the biscotti dough to come together.  I also baked them for only 20 minutes instead of 25 like the others. 

The biscotti are very decadent and chocolatey.  I would, however, like to try them without the chocolate chips - the chips seem to make the biscotti very fragile. 

After baking all that biscotti, it was time for dinner, shepherd's pie -

Shepherd's Pie (Coward's Edition - no organ meats)

2 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 TBSP. flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. dried parsley
2 cups chicken or beef broth
2 large carrots diced
1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
3 cups mashed potatoes

Microwave the carrots in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes.  Mix with the green peas and set aside. 
Heat 2 TBSP oil in a saute pan.  Add the ground beef and cook until all red is gone from the meat.  Add the onions, garlic and seasonings. Cook until onions are transparent.  Add the flour and stir, cook for 2-3 minutes stirring to avoid burning the flour.  Add the broth and stir well, working any flour off the bottom of the saute pan.  Cook until the broth has thickened.  Place in an 8 or 9 inch baking dish.  Top with carrots and peas.  Top the carrots and peas with the mashed potatoes.  Bake in 350F oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbly.  Serve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sourdough Rye Take 2

Today, I baked 2 loaves of New York Deli Onion Sourdough Rye from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  They look ALOT better than the previous attempt.  It's amazing what can happen when you watch the bread and make sure it doesn't overproof.  I'm still getting used to my make-shift microwave proof box.  The temp in there is about 80F so proofing loaves goes really fast.  I also reduced the amount of yeast in the bread to 1 1/2 tsp. instead of 2 tsp. which had seemed pretty high considering there is also a good amount of rye sourdough starter in the bread as well.  Here are my pretties -

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Stollen

Ok, so my ethnic tradition would demand that I make panettone for Christmas, but I'm not ready to make that leap just yet, so I made a Christmas stollen today.  It should have been made at least a month ago to age properly, but what the heck, I decided to go for it anyway.  The recipe is from Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I made up some almond paste by grinding some almonds and adding confectioner's sugar and light Karo syrup to make a paste.  Here's the result -

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keep Your Mind on Your Baking!

Some days I don't know where my mind goes.  I was baking 2 loaves of New York Onion Rye Bread from Peter Reinhart's book Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Everything was going smoothly.  The loaves were proofing in my make-shift proofer (microwave with cup of boiled water in it) but then disaster struck. 

I didn't pay attention to the bread as it was rising.  The recipe said 90 minutes to proof so I went with 90 minutes, oh so wrong!  Bread was proofed and I hadn't even started the oven!  In my tizzy, I set the oven 30F too cool and didn't realize it until 10 minutes or so into the bake. Bleh!  So I watched my two loaves of bread meet in the middle of the baking pan as they rose (sideways) on the baking sheet. Argh!!  No oven spring for me with that cool oven.  Here are the loaves as they look, cooling on the rack.  NEXT TIME - I'll check the bread about half way into the proof time. NEXT TIME I'll read the ENTIRE recipe through several times to get it straight in my head and not ASSUME anything!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Tale of Two Loaves

Today, I baked two loaves of San Francisco sourdough bread from a recipe on .  I've made this recipe before with some success.  Today's bake, however, was very interesting.  First the loaves feel heavy - not light and airy.  Hmmm, underproofed, overproofed?  Then while baking the first loaf, the crust never browned.  It looks pale and anemic.  So, for the next loaf I kept the oven at 500F for at least 20 minutes into the bake, browner loaf, still kinda heavy but better color. 

See for yourself --

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poor Little Baguette!

Well, I decided to jump off the cliff and try to make sourdough baguettes - not a great attempt as you can see -

The scoring looks like Jack the Ripper came thru and attacked them.  The crumb is dense and salty.  Next time I'll try yeasted baguettes to eliminate the starter as the culprit.  Onward!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gingerbread Army

I've been baking up a storm here, making biscotti, mint surprise cookies and now gingerbread men.  My Mom used to make these every year when we were kids and she even sent some when we were all grown up.  One year she put them on the Christmas tree and we ate all the red hots off of them, leaving them on the tree without eyes or buttons.  Mom was not pleased!  So, here is my army taking shape --

Here is a link to the recipe --

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eatwell CSA - This Week's Bounty

This week we will be getting another great box of fruit and veggies from Eatwell Farm.  They include:

Collard Greens
Purple Spring Onions
Savoy Cabbage
Lemon Verbena

Escarole, collard greens and savoy cabbage along with spring onions and some turnips - sounds like Grammie Soup(Minestrone) to me.  The base for the soup will be some turkey broth I froze when we make soup with the leftover bird.  Spinach and orange salad with pomegranate dressing sounds good, still have some pomegranate dressing I made up a couple of weeks ago.  Cauliflower calls out for aloo gobi (Indian cauliflower and potato saute).  Broccoli coupled with some bok choy from the farmers market will make a great stir fry with some shrimp and ginger.  Lemon verbena, hmmmm, maybe I'll just dry this and use it for tea or put some in the biscotti da the? 

Michael also brought home some lemons, so I may try to make some limoncello!

Enjoy the days leading up to Christmas, a perfect time to bake some good things and share with family and friends!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Time is Coming Right Up - Cookie baking time!

Christmas cookie baking 2012 is now officially on - starting with a favorite of mine - Anise biscotti.  These are great by themselves or jazzed up with a quick dip in dark chocolate after they've been completely baked(twice). 

I really enjoy these cookies with a cup of tea in the evening, or even dipped in a bit of wine.

The recipe is from Franco Galli's book The Il Fornaio Baking Book.


2 1/3 cups All Purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 TBSP. anise seeds
1 1/2 c. sliced raw almonds
1 stick (1/4 lb.) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. anise extract
Additional flour for workarea
Additional butter for baking sheet (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, almonds, salt and anise seeds. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale yellow in color (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and anise extracts. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture one third at a time, beating after each addition until thoroughly incorporated (don't get carried away here of the cookies could turn out tough).

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface using a bowl scraper. Flour or oil your hands with vegetable oil. Divide the dough into four equal (or three if you like bigger biscotti)pieces. Roll each portion into a log 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Line a 12 inch by at least 18 inch baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. Place the dough logs on the baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten to about 1/2 inch high. Bake the logs in the preheated oven for about 18 minutes, until light, golden brown (do not overbrown the bottoms). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so until they are cool enough to be handled. Leave the oven at 375F.

Transfer the cooled logs to a cuting surface, with a sharp knife, cut them on a slight diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange the cut pieces cut side up, on a baking sheet. Return the cookies to the oven for 10 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets before serving. Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to two weeks. (If they last that long, LOL)