Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing the Books on 2007 with a Slam

Today is thankfully the last day of what can only be called my personal "Annus Horribilis". For a year that started with great promise, 2007 has been frankly an awful year. I lost people who were close to me. I made a life changing decision to leave a long term situation and then I struggled with the transition from life in a city (Boston) where I didn't need a car to life in the commuter burbs of Connecticut where I can't get any errands done with one.

On a more positive note, the I made a re-commitment to fitness by hiring a fantastic personal trainer who, along with her sunny roommate, has become a close friend and gave me the most awesome pumpkin bread recipe ever. I met Lisa and Helen in Cleveland and we tore it up for a super fun weekend of cooking, drinking, smoking, and general mayhem. With the Daring Bakers, I have conquered my fear of puff pastry, hot caramelized sugar, survived the Martha Crepe Cake and did that awesome Wheat Sheath with the Tender Potato Bread Challenge.

I bought the mixer of my dreams, a Kitchenaid Pro 5 Plus and named her Isabelle.

I have traveled to some pretty exciting places, including Moscow.

My plan for 2008 is to carry the good with me and toss the bad away. To that end, I am reprinting the best recipe I made all year, The Pistachio and Cardmom Pound Cake from Survir Saran's American Masala. This has become a "go to impress" recipe and I make this about twice a month to share with various friends.


Pistachio and Cardamom Pound Cake with Lemon Icing

For the Cake:

1 cup raw, shelled unsalted pistachios
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk

For the Icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare the cake, place the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes. Cool and then pulse in a food processor until they become very fine (be careful not to over process; otherwise you'll have pistachio butter) and set aside. Reduce your oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1/2 Tbsp butter. Place a long strip of parchment paper in the pan bottom. Grease the top of the parchment with 1/2 Tbsp butter and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup, whisk in the vanilla, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the remaining stick and a half of butter and sugar until they are light and airy. Drizzle in the eggs, a little at a time, beating between additions to incorporate and scraping the bowl as necessary. Alternate adding the flour and the milk, starting and ending with the flour and mixing until the batter is just nearly combined between additions, scrapping the bowl as necessary. Fold the pistachios into the batter by hand, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack and turn it so its top faces up. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the icing: Sift the confectioners' sugar and cardamom into a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and cream or milk. Spread the icing over the cooled cake, letting it drip over the sides. Once the icing has set, slice and serve.

Good-bye and good riddance 2007. Hello 2008!!! May you and yours be safe, sound, and happy in the new year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Daring Bakers Yuletide Least the Frosting was Tasty...

Have you ever "drunk dialed"? You know, that phone call to that person you are attracted to at 2am after a night of partying where you reveal everything you DIDN'T want them to know?

Have you ever been really sick and couldn't sleep, woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the Home Shopping Network and ordered the ginzu wannabe clothes hanger chef's knife?

Have you ever taken a trip because the travel brochure looked so lovely and sunny only to arrive and find out that the photos were taken 15 years ago BEFORE the Gulf Stream shifted 30 miles north and now the sunny island paradise is a cold, dank and cloudy place?

I was going to take a pass on this month's Daring Baker challenge offered up by our founders Lisa and Ivonne, the Yule Log. I had even let Lis and Ivonne know I was going to take a pass. Between all the business travel and preparing for Christmas I basically had about three free days to complete the challenge. However, if you know me, you know that once I commit to doing something I'm a bit like a Scottish Terrier, stubborn and determined to complete my task.

So, at 2am this past Sunday morning and already one day late in posting, I woke up with a start, fretting about not being able to participate and decided that I would get out of bed and by golly, by gumption complete my duty as a Daring Baker. Besides, I have my new toy, Isabelle to help me, I've done the cake and the butter cream frosting a hundred times and I've always wanted to play with marzipan. What ever could go wrong??

Um, well....ehr....let's see here....before we get to the Yule Log as a whole, let's take a look at all the individual components of the Daring Baker Yule Log: coffee butter cream frosting and filling, genoise cake, and marzipan or meringue mushrooms.

Buttercream frosting separating? Nope. I didn't have that problem at all! In fact, I thought this was a pretty good frosting despite all the problems everyone was reporting. It was creamy and had quite a bit of good spreadable body to it and the coffee flavor was outstanding. I even made an extra batch to spread on some chocolate espresso cinnamon rolls I made that morning to take upstairs to the neighbors, it was that good.

Marzipan? Nope. I was blown away how easy it was to make my own marzipan. I have always used the pre-made marzipan that comes in the tube or can but after how easy this was and how pliable it was and tasty, I can say I won't be wasting my money on the pre-made again. I gave mine an orange chocolate flavor and ended up making 5 mushrooms: 3 button top and two morels.

Genoise? Nope. I've made quite a few of these before so I was pretty sure I wouldn't have a problem with this one. I didn't and I loved using Isabelle to just make light work of putting it all together. It baked up wonderfully and was light and airy.

So, let's take a tally here. All the individual parts of the Daring Baker Yule Log were successful and at 5:30am I was ready to assemble the log.

And this was where it all fell apart...


and completely...

As I made the first roll, my genoise began to crumble.

It began to crack.

And by the time I made my last roll...

I had a completely collapsed and crumbly mess on my hands, on my counter, on my dish towel, on the floor and one the coffee maker.

Basically a complete failure of rolling technique because well...I was tired. I was just ready to get this challenge over and I really should have stuck to my original plan; taken a pass. Oh well, too late now, so let's just finish this thing and get it over with. I frosted it, attached the mushrooms and snapped one and only one picture.

I hear decomposed dishes are all the rage these days. I even saw some on the Top Chef Christmas Special!!! Well, here is my Daring Baker version! My "Decomposed" Yule Log...

At least the neighbors liked it... and the whole mess kind of summed up my entire year; some good frosting with a crumbly mess underneath.

To see some intact logs, go check out my fellow Daring Bakers creations. And if you want to make your own version of the Yule Log, decomposed or not, you can get the recipe at Ivonne's.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Breadchick's Top Ten Chirstmas Movies of All Time (and her favourite Christmas cookie to boot!)

Every year on December 15th, to get me really in the spirit of the season, I start watching one Christmas movie a night culminating tonight with my annual private midnight viewing of that timeless classic, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'll sit down with a mug of hot chocolate, a box of kleenex, and a plate of Christmas cookies and watch George Bailey find redemption.

I don't consider the TV shows like Frosty the Snow Man, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or any of those other fantastic holiday classic Rankin/Bass TV shows as movies but I like typically watch them too.

One other Christmas movie tradition of mine is I watch "Miracle on 34th Street" twice, once on Thanksgiving Day and again on the night I wrap presents.

So, here are the movies I watch every year in no particular order. They are linked to their IMDB entry for synopsis and for version as there are a few different versions of some of these classics.

  1. The Bishop's Wife - Cary Grant, who can resist Cary Grant as an angel?

  2. Meet Me in St. Louis - Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to her little sister in that gorgeous red velvet dress

  3. Tenth Avenue Angel - Margaret O'Brien, Judy Garland's little sister in "Meet Me in St. Louis" stars

  4. Scrooged - Bill Murray and Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane, who can go wrong here?

  5. A Christmas Story - Ralphie, tongue stuck on pole, and the all time funniest Christmas present try-out of all time

  6. Home Alone - Another cute kid, best example of slap stick pratfall comedy since Laurel and Hardy

  7. Miracle on 34th Street - "I believe", "I believe"

  8. It's a Wonderful Life - "Zuzu's Petals! Zuzu's Petals!"

  9. Desk Set - Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in the best office Christmas party on film

  10. A Christmas Carol - Alastair Sim is the best Scrooge, hands down.

And there you have it, my top ten Christmas movies of all time. What are your favourite Christmas movies?

My Favourite Christmas Cookie: Linzer Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
1 egg, separated
2 to 2 1/4 cups of AP flour
2/3 cup raspberry or apricot preserves

Beat butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy on medium speed with a hand or stand mixer. Beat in two egg yolks. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour and beat at low speed, until well blended. Add additional flour, one spoonful at a time, until a stiff dough is formed. If you are using a hand mixer, you will need to do this by hand as the dough will be too stiff for most hand mixers. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each ball to a disc about 6" in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until firm.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour your cookie sheets. Beat egg white with 1 tsp of water and set aside.

Unwrap one disc and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out dough with a lightly floured pin to 3/16th inch thickness. Using either a linzer cookie cutter without center cut piece or a 2" round biscuit cutter, cut out bottom part of linzer cookie and place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2" apart. Gently knead dough scraps together, re-roll out, and cut out additional bottoms. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until firm and light golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks.

While bottoms are baking, unwrap other disc and roll out like the bottoms but this time use either the linzer cookie cutter with the center cut piece in or a 2" donut cutter. Place on prepared cookie sheets 1 1/2" apart and brush with egg white and sprinkle with reserved 2 Tbsp of sugar (I use sparkling decorator sugar sometimes too). Gently knead dough scraps together, re-roll out, and cut out additional bottoms. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until firm and light golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks.

When all the tops and bottoms are baked and cooled, place 1/2 tsp of preserves on bottoms and gently press the top onto the jam. Store in tightly covered dish at room temperature or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Memory and Wish

When I was a little girl, I waited every year for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to come on. In the early 70s it would be one of the last Christmas shows shown on TV; typically on either the 23rd, 24th or 25th of December. My brother and I would have to have our baths and be in our pajamas before my mom would make popcorn and orange kool-aid and sit us down in front of the TV in our living room with all the lights turned out except for the Christmas tree lights. It was the only time she ever let us watch tv in the dark. During the show, my brother would sneak over to the Christmas tree to shake all the presents, trying to figure out what was in them but I would watch enthralled. After the show was over, I would lay down under the tree and look up through the branches at the twinkling lights. I loved the quiet glow of the lights as I hummed the theme song to myself and thought about the meaning of Christmas.

Today is Christmas Eve and I am packing to leave bright and early tomorrow morning to go home to Michigan for the rest of the year. Tonight, after I'm all packed with my suitcase by the door for my 3:45am pick up, I'll take a shower, pop some popcorn, make some rum spiked eggnog and watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on DVD in the dark with nothing but the Christmas tree lights on.

Afterwards, I'll lie on the floor and look up at the tree and ponder the meaning of Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blogging and Baking for Four Years Strong

Four years ago tonight I started The Sour Dough with a "Hello World" post.

When I started The Sour Dough, I figured it would be a place for me to record my thoughts, talk a bit about my job as a designer of professional audio systems and share the occasional recipe or two.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that four years later not only would I still be writing but that I would have shifted the blog's focus to food with a concentration on bread and baking. Writing this blog has made me a better cook and baker and a better writer. Because of The Sour Dough, I have been invited to review cookbooks and products; which I've discovered I really enjoy doing and look forward to doing a lot more of in the upcoming year. Writing The Sour Dough has allowed me to join a really fantastic and fanatic group of fellow bloggers, The Daring Bakers. This group of zany men and women have pushed me to try things I would not have ever tried on my own. I've learned how to program a bit of CSS, HTML, and what Putty and CMD mean. I've gotten better at taking pictures and I've even learned how to work Photoshop.

Best of all, because of The Sour Dough I have met in both real life and in the ether some really fantastic friends like Sara, Lisa, Helen, Andrea, Veron, Peabody, Kelly, Elle, Ilva, Tanna, Jo, Jill, Ivonne, Jenny, Ruth, Stephanie, Laura Rebecca, Mimi, and Mary to name only a few of the people who not only leave wonderfully encouraging feedback but write me nice emails and solicit my advice about bread, baking and sometimes just life.

So, on the fourth anniversary of The Sour Dough, let me say thank you one and all for making me a better blogger and a better person. You, my readers, are fantastic and I'm proud to know you.

Here's to entering the fifth year of The Sour Dough with great oven spring, tight crumb, and a crispy crust!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Menu for Hope IV: Help Us Get to $70,000 on the Last Day with a Box of Chocolate

WOW!!! Thanks everyone so much for the outpouring of love for the Nine Chocolate Mice from LA Burdicks yesterday. As of this morning, they have moved from the unloved list to Chez Pim's "Good Odds" list (meaning there were a number of bids but there was still a chance to win) where they joined the "Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread and the "Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick".

According to Chez Pim's "Tip Sheet" there is one last prize that The Sour Dough is offering that has excellent odds that you will win and frankly, if I wasn't offering it myself, I would be slapping $30.00 down to win and that is a Small Signature Collection of Chocolate from Knipschildt Chocolatiers (prize code UE09).

Now, let me tell you something about these chocolates. First, not only had Gourmet named Knipschildt one of the top three chocolates in the WORLD but Forbes has featured them because they have the most expensive truffle, the La Madeline au Truffle.

Also, from up close and personal experience (Knipschildt's retail store, Chocopologie is located across the back parking lot from our offices) these chocolates are some of the most delectable chocolates you will ever put in your mouth. We had two of their Large Signature Collection in our office this week and let me tell you it was all I could do not to sit down at my desk with a whole box and snarf it down. And for anyone in the office who reads this blog...yes, it was I who ate all the coconut truffles.

Now, back to you getting a chance to sample these wonderful truffles. All you have to do is before midnight tonight, go to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and place a bid for Prize UE09, Small Signature Box of Knipschildt Chocolates.

We are so close to raising $70,000 for the World Food Programme and the school lunch program in Lesotho that all of us can taste it. And what a better way to share the joy than with a nice box of chocolate from one of the best chocolatiers in the world?

The Menu for Hope IV raffle ends today, December 21 so won't you please help us get there?

Here's how you can bid on the prizes The Sour Dough is offering: Knipschildt Chocolates, the LA Burdick Mice, the Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread, The Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick or any of the other fabulous prizes being offered by my fellow food bloggers of the world.

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes from our Menu for Hope prize page at (mmmmm....truffles, Prize Code UE09)

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation (Knipschildt Chocolates UE09). You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Menu for Hope IV: Up for Adoption Nine Lovely Chocolate Mice

My mice are unloved...

As of last night at 6:30pm there were only 2 raffle tickets sold for the LA Burdick Chocolate Mice in the Menu for Hope IV raffle.

Just look at their cute faces. Can't you see the sadness in their little black eyes? And see how their pretty colorful tails are all drooped? They can't even wiggle their sweet little ears they are feeling so unwanted.

So come on readers! Let's find these adorable mice a home!!

Open your hearts to them and bid to win!!! Each chance to have these cute as a button creatures only costs $10.00 per ticket. The LA Burdick Chocolate Mice are prize code UE08. If you win, you will not only receive nine really yummy tasting treats (the mice are in three flavors: dark with orange interior, milk with mocha interior, and white with cinnamon interior) but you will be helping to support a wonderful cause, the World Food Programme.

The Menu for Hope IV raffle ends tomorrow so hurry, hurry, hurry!!!

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes from our Menu for Hope prize page at (mmmmm....chocolate mice with cute little ears, Prize Code UE08)

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation (LA Burdicks Chocolate Mice UE08). You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Introducing Isabelle

I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of my cooking family, Isabelle.

Isabelle, an empire red Kitchen Aid Pro 5 Plus, arrived at 7:10pm on December 18, 2007 and weighed 29.1 lbs. Upon emerging from her comfy and warm shipping box, she immediately began what I hope to be a very happy and fruitful working relationship by making quick work of a sour cream raspberry butter crumb coffee cake batter.

Resulting in what my co-workers are calling the absolutely best coffee cake they have ever had.

Isabelle and I have a long list of goodies to make in the upcoming days, months, and years. I'm sure we'll be very happy.

If you would like your own "Isabelle" to name and care for, you should rush over to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and bid on David Lebovitz's awesome prize of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, ice cream making attachment, and autographed copy of his wonderful book "The Perfect Scoop" (prize EU17). Or if you already have an "Isabelle", live in the greater NYC area or Fairfield County Connecticut but don't know how to make homemade bread you should bid on my prize, A Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick (prize UE11).

This Friday, December 21, is the last day your $10.00 donation will get you a chance to win either these prizes or any of the other raffle items my fellow food bloggers are offering. Remember your donation to Menu for Hope IV will help support a school lunch program in Lethoso, managed by the World Food Programme. So far, we've raised over $43,000 and are inching closer to our goal of over $60,000 to better last years amount.

So hop to it or at least put your mixer on 10...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Anticipating a New Family Member

I got notification today of the imminent arrival of a new member to my family!

I can't wait to see her and introduce you to her and all the lovely things she will bring to LB and my family.

In the mean time, if you want to be anticipating something wonderful arriving at your door step in January and who doesn't like getting something in the mail or from the UPS man, then you should hurry on over to the Menu for Hope IV donation page and bid on one of the fabulous food items being offered by my fellow food bloggers (there are some really yummy things there) or better yet, you can bid on one the items I've donated to this worthy cause! The funds raised this year will help support a school lunch program in Lesotho. As of this post we have raised over $38,000; more than half way to our goal of over $60,000.

Hurry up because Menu for Hope IV ends on Friday...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Home From Russia With Love

I'm back from Moscow. It was a wonderful experience; one I'm looking forward to repeating but this time purely as a tourist. Luckily, we got one day of sight seeing in and I used it to wander around the Kremlin/Red Square area in the day light as I had only seen it at night.

To say that I'm jet lagged today would be a mild understatement of the first order. By the time you figure in the time difference, flight time, and the time required to get through the Moscow Airport security process I was up for twenty seven hours on Friday/Saturday. Needless to say not a whole lotta anything got done around Chez Breadchick over the weekend except for a trip to the gym to fight of some jet lag, laundry and a little bread baking. We, LB and I, also got our first Christmas packages in the mail on Saturday.

LB immediately celebrated by sitting on one of the boxes; making it next to impossible for me to open. He picked a good box on which to perch himself because it contained cat goodies in the form of sardines, a new stringy toy, and some catnip treats from one of his grandmothers!

I've got lots more tales from Moscow to tell you about and I promise, I'll get you all caught up on the food and fun later in the week but today I want to remind you that you only have four more days to bid on the lovely raffle prizes for Menu of Hope IV.

The last day you can donate and receive the opportunity to win either one of the four prizes I'm offering (chocolates from LA Burdicks or Knipschildt Chocolatiers, two loaves of fresh baked bread, or a day of bread baking with Breadchick) or any other other wonderful prizes being offered by my fellow food bloggers is December 21st! So hurry on up and donate here at the Menu for Hope Donation Page. All the proceeds go to fund the World Food Programme and specifically a school lunch program in Lesotho.

I have also noticed quite a few bids for the LA Burdicks Chocolate Mice (prize #UE08) and A Day of Breadbaking with Breadchick (prize# UE11)...Thanks everyone who has bid on those items. So, if you are looking for something with a really good chance of winning go ahead and bid on the small signature box of Knipschildt chocolate (prize #UE09) or the two loaves for fresh baked bread (prize# UE10). I promise you won't be sorry with either yummy goodie and you will be supporting a really awesome cause!

As of when I posted this the current funds raised are over $30,000!!! Whooot!! Now, Sour Dough readers, let's help push that even higher and closer to our goal of over $62,000 (last year's total). We can do it!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Years Day Shopping in Russia

It gets dark early in Moscow right now. By 3:30 it is dusk and by 4:30 it is pitch black outside. The weather all week has been gray and gloomy but surprisingly it fits the season. We got our first really big snow last night and since we were all in the Christmas shopping mood, we decided to head to GUM, the former State shopping mall (you remember, the store where when Russia was the Soviet Union all the babuskas would queue for hours just for the opportunity to buy a pair of shoes or cans of food). The store is decorated in white lights on every nook and cranny and there is an Olympic size ice skating rink outside filled with people zipping by at high rates of speed. You definitely don't see too many Moscovites clinging to the edge of the rink like you do at Rockefeller Center. Today, GUM is a western style shopping arcade complete with all the high end stores and a food court up on the third level and during this season is decorated for the holidays and filled with shoppers looking for New Years gifts.

For Russians, Christmas isn't the big holiday even though they decorate Christmas trees and there are santas and reindeer all over the place.

Instead, the big gift giving day here is New Years. Every place I look there are ads for the perfect New Years party to attend and best gifts to give someone. Kitchen appliances like indoor electric grills, juicers, and rotisseries seem to be the hot items to give and receive. The electronic billboard outside my hotel window is advertising kitchen gadgets every other ad While we searched GUM for a place to have dinner I walked by the Russian equivalent of Williams and Sonoma and Crate and Barrel and noticed a window full of lively coloured rotisseries (think Kitchen Aid stand mixer colours).

After walking around and discovering no place special to eat dinner, we headed to the Le Meridien National to have dinner in their restaurant. I would like to tell you I have nice food pictures of a really spectacular Russian meal but the lighting was awful and the only picture I have is a really bad picture of my wonderfully presented chicken Kiev.

The best part of the meal was my appetizer of pelimeni, a meat filled dumpling served with a sour cream sauce and sprinkled with dill. Mine were filled with beef, pork and lamb were super tasty. I like them so much, that I've looking forward to heading back to the Le Meridien National before I leave just to have them again.

Don't forget, Menu for Hope 4 is happening right now! I'm offering four great prizes for raffle and you can see what all the other food bloggers around the world are offering by visiting Chez Pim's site. To make a donation, please visit the Menu for Hope First Giving page. Just think, you can celebrate Christmas and New Years, just like the Russians do by making a donation and winning a raffle!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope 4: Good Tidings for You and Food for the World

Today marks the beginning of what has become the "must participate" event of the year for food bloggers, Chez Pim's Menu for Hope. For the past four years, food bloggers from all over the world have come together during this season of joy to raise money through an online raffle for a worthy cause.

Once again, the Menu for Hope will be supporting the United Nations World Food Programme, a program that provides food aid to the areas of the world in need because of famine, disaster, economic hardships and helps these nations develop their own food resources through education and grants. No money we raise passes through any of our hands but rather is handled by First Giving, who take the bids and then pass the raised funds on to the World Food Programme. Last year we raised over $60,000 for the World Food Programme and we hope to raise at least that much again this year.

You can help us meet that goal by purchasing a raffle ticket with a donation of $10.00 for a prize that strikes your fancy. Prizes are arranged by region and since I'm an East Coast food blogger, Adam Kuban of Slice and Serious Eats is our prize master. You can view all the East Coast prizes by visiting the East Coast Raffle Page, where you will find all the East Coast food bloggers prizes as well as links to the other regions of the world prize pages as well.

This is the third year that The Sour Dough has participated as a sponsor of a raffle item and in honor of the 4th Anniversary of The Menu for Hope, I am proud to be donating four prizes:

UE08: Box of 9 LA Burdick Chocolate Mice:

These are the signature chocolate of one of the best chocolatiers in the United States, Larry Burdick. The mice are in three flavors: dark with orange interior, milk with mocha interior, and white with cinnamon interior. Each mouse comes decorated with an adorable face and pretty silk ribbon tail. Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to bidders in the US

UE09: Small Signature Collection box of Chocolate from Knipschildt Chocolatier:

Voted one of the top three chocolates of the world by Gourmet and home of Forbes Magazine's most expensive truffle, the La Madeline au
Truffle, this collection offers a sampling of master Fritz Knipschildt's finest flavors of the season in a variety of shapes, textures, and sizes.
Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to bidders in the US

UE10: Two Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread from Breadchick:

I will bake fresh and ship overnight for delivery the next day two loaves of Breadchick Homebaked Breads. The winner can choose from the following breads: Classic Farmer's White, Honey Whole Wheat, Egg, or Asiago Cheese. All my breads are made with the finest natural
ingredients and with no preservatives. Winner will get to select the time/date when the breads will be delivered with a five day advance notice. Sorry, due to the nature of the product shipping for this raffle item will be only to US

UE11: Day of Baking with Breadchick:

This is an "in your home" lesson on making bread completely by hand for the winner and up to three of their friends or family. I will come to the winner's house on a weekend day and teach them to make bread the old fashioned way, completely by hand (no mixer, no bread machine). The winner will learn all about how to have success with bread and yeast in their home and learn techniques like proofing yeast, kneading, and how do you know you will have bread and not a "hockey puck". We will make two loaves: basic white and one specialty bread like cinnamon rolls, Challah, or whole grain. The winner will also get a home bread making kit that includes my preferred loaf pan, a dough proofing tub, wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons, bakers towels, yeasts, bread flour and recipes for the breads we make with step by step instructions. This is the perfect prize for the person who is terrified of yeast and making bread by hand but always wanted to try. Due to the nature of this prize, it is only offered to folks living in NYC and Fairfield County, CT.

Now that you've seen the prizes I'm offering, here's how you donate and have a chance to win one of these prizes from the Sour Dough (bread.... fresh baked bread.... UE10) or any of the other great prizes the other food bloggers of the world are offering:

To Enter

If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:

1. Choose one of the fantastic prizes above (mmmmm....chocolate mice with cute little ears UE08) or one of the other fabulous prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:

Basic Order

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:

Advanced Order

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

SEE! It's all pretty simple....

(Psst...You, ya you on the Upper West Side with the bunny slippers and the coffee mug with the big chocolate kiss on know you are scared of know I can help you become a yeast beast and then you too can be a master of bread! Five tickets for UE11)

So, what are you waiting for? Go click over to the Menu for Hope 4 and get a chance at some chocolate, some bread, or anything else on the prize lists your little heart desires and help us feed the world.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

In the Land of White Nights and Vodka

Guess where I am?!! Yup, I'm in Moscow, Russia!!! Now, how cool is that?

Ehm...actually it is very cool, like only 28 F/-2C and it is looking like it may snow. There is also only about 6 and a half hours of sunlight a day right now here owing to being so far north. The experience so far has been frankly awesome and a bit discombobulating. Moscow and Russia in general is a bit like entering a free for all in regards to a few things like oh, I don't know, getting a taxi (you flag down a car and negotiate a price to take you to where you want to go) and getting in and out of the airport (they inspect your bags coming and going and it took almost three hours to get through customs). Once we got to the hotel, I found that I was staying in the President Hotel, the former official hotel of the Communist Party for high diplomats and affairs of the state. The security is incredible, it is like entering an armed fortress but apparently that is necessary these days for protecting Western business people who are working on high profile jobs; which I can't tell you much about yet but let's just say that when the next major rock and roll band tours in Moscow early next year, I can ensure them their sound system tech rider will be met and it will get plenty stinkin' loud....oh like to 11.

After checking into the hotel, we had a few hours for some sight seeing and a colleague and I went right to Red Square and the Kremlin. All the pictures in the world don't do Red Square or the Kremlin justice. They are gargantuan and the colors are so vibrant, so Russian. It was spitting huge flakes of snow while we stood in line to view Lenin's body (my colleague wanted to see the mold that is allegedly growing on Lenin's nose and in return said he would go to the Eliseev Gastronome with me). Eliseev Gastronome is unreal and like stepping back into a time when the Russian Court was still installed. There were foods from all over the world, barrels of caviar, smoked fish and meat of every kind, and was all very overwhelming; not unlike the food halls at Harrods, Fortnum Mason, and Galeries Lafayette. We sampled some dry cured meats and cheeses and I had my first truly spectacular caviar, these huge golden fish eggs that tasted of the sea when they burst in my mouth. Nothing like the caviar I have had before and if all caviar tasted like this I'd be eating it every day! After picking up a few things at a souvenir shop next to the Gastronome we headed to a little cafe, Mon Cafe for dessert where I got a delicious creme caramel and some tea and my colleague got a fig tart and espresso.

When we finished with dessert and while we walked back to the metro it began to snow those huge massive snow flakes again and somewhere in the distance I'm pretty sure I heard the tinkling of sleigh bells and the theme music to Dr. Zhivago...

Friday, December 07, 2007

I'm Late! I'm Late!! For a Very Important Date...ehm..Party!!

OK, call it late owing to time differences (You know I'm in Moscow right?...RIGHT!!! Does that mean I can blame this on an 8+ hour time difference or all the vodka I just had at dinner?).

So, I'm late for a someone very special's housewarming party!!! The very lovely, super funny, and incredibly talented Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody is having a housewarming party this Saturday 'cause she and her sweet husband and pooch have just moved into a new house complete with a Daring Baker's dream kitchen!

Now, I had a few ideas about what to bring and had planned on bringing some fun bread and maybe an appie or two but...I got waylaid in packing for a trip to a country that has one foot in the 21st Century and another foot in a country that looks like the "Wild West" (Who knew you should bring water purification tablets and a small roll of toilet paper to a country that charges over $700 a night/2,450 Rubbles for a room at the Holiday Inn??!!)

Anyways, last weekend I was trying to figure something quick but super delicious to bring to a fellow Flames fan (Go FLAMES!!!) with a sweet tooth that almost beats mine while rummaging around the pantry for Christmas cookie ingredients when I was literally hit in the head with inspiration (in the form of a bag of white chocolate chips)...

How about Seven Layer Bars!! You would know them as Congo Bars or Dolly Madison Cookies or Magic Bars (huge bonus points to anyone who gets the Seinfeld homage in this this vodka induced, exclamation pointed sentence).

Yup, as fellow Daring Baker Brilynn says "Go Big or Go Home"; meaning I decided to use every type of nut and chip I had in my pantry on what I consider the best over the top cookie on the face of the planet and bring a big ole pan of them with me to pass around and stand in her fabulous new kitchen kvetching with my fellow bakers and bloggers.

Because after all, if I'm going to be late with my offering to the potluck it better be darn good and gooey.

Happy New House Peabody!!!

Peabody's Over the Top Housewarming Potluck Seven Layer Bars

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee chips
1 1/2 cups coconut, toasted, reserving 1/2 cup of coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter in a 9" x 13" cake pan lined with two layers of tin foil (one going length wise the other cross wise) leaving the ends of the foil over the pan. Sprinkle crumbs over butter and stir until all the crumbs are coated with butter. Gently press crumbs down to make even crust. Top with remaining ingredients in the order given, holding out the 1/2 cup of reserved coconut for last layer Pour condensed milk over mixture and bake 25 minutes or until lightly brown at 350 degrees. Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes, remove bars using tin foil as handle and cut into squares.

Makes 24 bars