Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Exiting 2008 With As Much Grace As I Can Muster...

Last year I wrote a post that called 2007 "my personal 'Annus Horribilis'". Looking back now, 2007 seems like a dream year compared to 2008.

Since losing Wren to suicide on September 28th, I have to admit I have been in a weird place both personally and professionally. There have days when I consider quitting blogging and cooking all together because he encouraged me in both endeavors. Other days, I consider quitting my day job as an audio engineer/sound system designer to make writing and cooking my full time profession. There have been days that have been near impossible to drag myself out of bed and other days that I wake up feeling like I did on September 27th, even though the person I was that morning no longer exists. Those days are starting to out number the former thankfully but it has been and will continue to be, as my therapist says, "a process" to figure out who the new me will be. I will be working on that "process" quite a bit in the upcoming year.

Originally, I wasn't going to write a year end wrap up post but as I thought about it, I realized that so much has happened that I couldn't not because there are so many people to whom I owe a "Thank You" (You know who you are), especially those of you have continued to read The Sour Dough during the past few months and written me with such kindess and support. Actually to ALL my readers over the years. I can't tell you how much it means to me to receive your comments and emails.

Did you know that 2009 will be the beginning of my sixth year of blogging!

I started The Sour Dough back in December 2004, at the urging of Wren, as a place to explore my passion for writing. Originally, The Sour Dough was a general topic blog that featured my hobby of cooking/baking but by May of 2005, again at Wren's urging, I made the shift to a single focus, cooking with an emphasis on baking, specifically bread baking.

In December of 2006, I registered "" and in January 2007 I kissed Blogger goodbye by moving The Sour Dough to my new webpage, self-hosted on the Wordpress format. lived on our server farm that occupied our front parlor in our house in Cambridge, MA. Unfortunately, in October, I had to shut down those servers as part of settling the affairs Wren's estate and moved The Sour Dough back to Blogger until I can find a new hosting company and take the time to re-setup my templates, etc. Which is probably why some of you are having some problems with your RSS feeds! (Note to those who have wondered why you don't get notification of new posts, change your RSS feeds to

As I move into 2009, I have a few things planned for The Sour Dough with the most important to get back to a self-hosting format. I also want to get the pictures to my older posts back up. I've been slowly uploading them to my Flickr page so I can go back into the posts and reset them. I also have a late February trip to Paris, a return to the Shenandoah Valley in May, and I'm quite sure some interesting business travel that always results in food posts.

LB , who's snoring so loudly right now I can hear him over the blower for the heater, will be back in 2009 as well. He'll be hosting Weekend Cat Blogging regularly and who knows, may even find the time to set up his own blog. He is becoming quite the feline computer expert and gets about half the "fan mail" sent The Sour Dough.

So, as 2008 fades into black and the curtain on 2009 opens, here is to greeting each day of 2009 as if it is the first day of a New Year.

May you and yours have a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Present a Log Yule Love or Hate

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

Thanks for hosting Ladies! It was challenging....

If you dare to do this month's challenge with the Daring Bakers one thing is for sure, Yule also Log HOURS in the kitchen and dirty every single pot you own.

And the results may or may not be worth it depending on a few things.

A. Do you like really rich desserts?
B. Do you have the patience of a saint?
C. How much unflavored gelatin do you have on hand?

We were required to make all six elements of the Yule Log: Dacquoise Biscuit, Mousse, Ganache Insert, Praline (Crisp) Insert, Creme Brulee Insert, Icing

Daring Baker's French Yule Log - Dec Challenge

See!! I got all six but despite my best efforts, the layers still slipped and slid around in the mousse and I was definitely not liking this recipe for Creme Brulee.

In my house the results were well worth the time I spent in the kitchen even if my log isn't exactly the picture of perfection (See Letter C above). My dad adored the dessert and has asked every night since Christmas dinner when am I going to make it again.

I hate to tell my dad that I probably won't be making this exact version as I found the effort to make it not worth the results (a little over the top, HATED the crisp) but I'm keeping the mousse and dacquoise biscuit recipes because they were quite tasty.

This month is my return after a couple month hiatus from Daring Bakers to deal with some personal things going on in my life. Go check out my fellow Daring Bakers to how they fared with the challenge.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Perfect Turkey, More Snow, and Menu for Hope

Look what I woke up to again this morning!

22 Degrees, Perfect Snow Weather

Yup, that would be the low 20's on the thermometer, meaning absolutely perfect snow weather. So, while all those trolls (what we Yoopers call folks who live below the Mackinac Bridge) are getting up to 2" of rain and fog, we are getting snow up here along the shores of Lake Superior. So much snow that this is what the snow plow man has left me at the foot of our cottage driveway!

7' Pile of Snow at Cottage

That pile is almost 7' tall and you just barely see the small lake the cottage sits on beyond the trees. Lake Superior is pretty angry today too as we are getting high winds with a Gale Warning out on the lake and the prediction of blizzard like conditions this evening all through Sunday.

Allegedly I'm scheduled to fly back to NYC on Monday but Northworst Airlines has already put up weather waivers for MSP and DTW airports through Monday so who knows. It took me three days to get here last week and looks like it will take me three days to get home. Drat, I have to stay nestled snuggly and warm at the cottage with nothing to do but bake and cook. Darn, Darn, Darn... (Do you think my boss, who reads The Sour Dough occasionally thinks I'm upset enough about possibly not being able to make it home to be in the in office on Tuesday?!)

Normally, when I'm up at the cottage during the winter, I just use one of the family snowmobiles through the back woods between the cottage and the main house (They are only about 1/2 mile apart as the crow flies through the woods). But with snow as deep as it is right now, I'd have a good chance of getting it buried in the ungroomed conditions of the woods. It has been a good thing that Mom is letting me drive her Jeep this week.

Mom's Snow Covered Jeep

I don't think I've had it out of 4 wheel drive once and often have to put it in low gear to get up the steep driveway to the cottage.

This morning as I was knocking the snow off my boots after shoveling the back porch, I noticed the spot next to the back door, which is our main door for the cottage, where thirty years of family members and friends have knocked either sand off their shoes or snow off their boots before coming into the cottage.

Cottage Boot Knock Mark

That spot is a lot like those marks on the doorways of some houses where generations of children are measured to show how tall they are growing. The sound of someone knocking snow off their boots always signaled company. My folks are big on company and sharing an evening of food, libations, and laughter with our extended family and neighbors.

This visit home has been no exception as every night we've put out a spread of appetizers, baked goodies, and Christmas cheer to a group of friends and family. It has been the tonic I needed after the rather sad and stressful past few months. The good wishes of everyone has been healing and the fact that my Mom has let me have complete free rein in the kitchen to bake and cook to my heart's content has brought comfort to me.

Speaking of cooking, look at the Christmas Turkey!

The Perfect Christmas Turkey

Is that not the most perfectly golden brown turky you have ever seen?

I was rummaging around through some old cookbooks at my Mom and Dad's house on Christmas Eve when I stumbled upon the 1955 version of the McCall's Cookbook that my father's mother used. I opened up the book to the picture of the most beautiful golden turkey. I decided to follow the method in McCall's to see if I could get our Christmas turkey to look as good as the one in the picture. I think I succeeded nicely and it was the moistest and most flavorful turkey I've ever done.

Menu for Hope has been extended until December 31st. So, you still have a chance to place a bid for either the adorable and delightful LA Burdick Chocolate mice (UE05)

Menu For Hope V Prize: Burdick's Mice

or a Day of Breadmaking with Breadchick (UE06)

Menu for Hope V Prize: Day of Bread Baking with Breadchick

or any other cool prize from my fellow food bloggers on the Menu for Hope donation page at First Giving.

As of this morning we had raised almost $42,000 for the WFP's school lunch program for the children of Lesotho.

OK, off to town with Mom before the weather and roads get really nasty. We have some after Christmas shopping to do (my mom is the queen of after Christmas shopping for next Christmas) and I have already read the three books I brought with me, meaning I need to stop in the bookstore to find a few more because I may stuck here until the spring thaw in late May.

Perfect Golden Turkey
adapted from the McCall's Cookbook

1 9 - 12lb turkey, with giblets removed
(If your turkey was frozen, make sure completely unthawed)
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1 stick unsalted butter
4Tbsp salted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a cereal bowl, combine 1/2 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of ground pepper and set aside. Cut onion and celery into large chunks and set aside. Cut stick of butter into half. With one half, divide into 4 Tbsp chunks. With the other half, slice lengthwise into 4 strips and set aside.

Place roasting rack in roasting pan deep enough to come up 1/2 way on the turkey and set aside.

Remove the tail piece and any excess fat and skin from the neck and tail area. Check cavity to make sure any giblets have been fully removed, the neck has been removed and any excess fat and remaining bits of innards have been fully cleaned out.

Wash and completely pat dry with paper towels the inside and outside of the turkey. Place on large cake sheet or jelly roll pan lined with paper towels, breast up.

Rub a hand full of salt and pepper mixture into cavity and fill cavity with onion and celery chunks and the 4 Tbsp chunks of butter. Sprinkle a hand full of salt and pepper mixture into cavity with onions, celery, and butter.

Loosen skin around neck and between legs and lower back/thigh creating four deep pockets between meat and skin. Rub a small hand full of salt and pepper mixture in each pocket on the meat under the skin and put one long slice of butter in each pocket. Pat skin down to close off pocket.

Baste breast side with 1/2 of the melted butter and rub with 1/2 of the remaining salt and pepper mixture.

Place turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack and baste back side of turkey with remaining melted butter and rub with remaining salt and pepper mixture.

Place turkey in oven, breast side down, and bake for 2 1/2 hours, basting with juices or additional melted butter every 30 minutes. If turkey starts to over brown, loosely cover turkey only, not the entire pan, with foil.

After 2 1/2 hours, turn turkey over so the breast is on top, baste with juices or melted butter and bake until internal temperature of meat is 180 degrees at the thickest part of the turkey thigh. If turkey starts to over brown, loosely cover turkey only, not the entire pan, with foil.

Remove turkey from oven and let stand covered for 5 - 10 minutes. To recrisp the skin, pop back into oven for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Early Morning Christmas Walk

I took a walk in the snow this Christmas morning. The sky was just light and all around me the world was quiet.

Our Road to the Folk's House and the Cottage

As I walked up the road, the only thing stirring was the little red squirrel dashing here and there trying to figure out how to find his buried goodies and the lights of the next door neighbor's living room lights where their grandkids undoubtedly had pulled the family out of bed at 6AM.

Big fluffy flakes of snow drifted down adding downy puffs to the top of the birdhouse out back

Our Birdhouse

and settling on the tree that most years my family decorates with popcorn and cranberries for the birds.

Snow covered tree in Cottage backyard

We didn't get around to doing that because the snow came so fast and furious this year we couldn't get to the tree before the snow was too deep.

Finally, after walking all around the lake I arrived back at the family cottage to a warm cup of coffee and to sit in silence and watch the snow drift down slow and straight; the last moments of Christmas peace before I leave for my parent's house down the road to our Christmas breakfast and the gathering of the family.

Our Michigan Cottage Xmas 2008

Later this afternoon I will return to the cottage to pick up the dessert, a trifle of last summer's berries lovingly gathered by my mother and a special dessert I can't tell you about right now. But, when it is revealed the eight hours I spent in the kitchen better have been worth it.

Best of all, when I return, I will take a few minutes to sit and ponder the lake, the snow, and most of all the cherished quiet that I always enjoy on Christmas day.

May you and yours feel peace and joy today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ladies, Please Remember to Remove Your Hats

My good friend and the host of that monthly food gathering Blog Party, Stephanie tagged me for a movie quiz. I'm a movie nut. No, let me rephrase that I'm an OLD movie nut. The movies that I love the most are almost all in black and white and star actors like Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Jeff Chandler, Joan Crawford, et al. Heck, my fellow Bakeanistas all know me by my alter-ego Norma (after Norma Shearer).

So, when Stephanie asked me to participate in the little movie quiz thingy she has on her website, I had to go take a gander. She and I have similar tastes in movies but I only got three of the quotes.

Since turn about is fair play and I'm stuck snowed in in Northern Michigan with nothing to do but watch DVDs and bake for Christmas dinner, I'm going to go ahead and test all your knowledge of movies. And, there will be a special shout out in my next post for the first person who can leave me a comment with the significance of title of this post!

At the end, I'm going to toss in a recipe for some Christmas cookies, because it isn't too late to bake up a batch or two to share with friends and family. These are a special request from Christina over at She Runs, She Eats. If you don't know Christina, you should take a gander at her blog. I admire anyone who can run a half marathon and then stop off at the local bakery to sample the wares!

Finally speaking of Christmas and the Holidays, it isn't too late to participate in Menu for Hope V. The Sour Dough has two offerings this year, LA Burdick Chocolate Mice (UE05) and a Day of Bread Making with me (UE06). As of this post, we have raised over $25,000 for the World Food Programme's School Lunches in Lesotho. To bid on my prizes or any other prize, go to First Giving. You have until tomorrow to place your bid!

So, without further adieu, here is our feature presentation:

1. Leave a comment for me when you think you know the movie the quote came from
NO GOOGLING/using IMDb search or other search functions.
3. If your answer is correct, I'll cross out the quote and put who guessed correctly.

If you want to come up with your own list here is how:
1. Pick 15 of your favorite movies.

2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them for everyone to guess.
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.

1. There's a name for you ladies but it isn't used in polite society outside of a kennel

2. I'm really in the junk business - an occupation for which many people feel I'm well-qualified by temperament and training.

3. Well, I can't yell "Oh butler!" can I? Maybe somebody's name is Butler.

4. Does my inner child need a spanking?

5. You are the only man I know who can say 'malignant' the way other people say 'Bingo!'

6. Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called in-breeding; from this comes idiot children... and other lawyers.

7. Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work. (Office Space) Jo

8. My dear, since Eve picked the apple, no woman has ever been taken entirely unawares.

9. Here's to men. Bless their clean-cut faces and dirty little minds!

10. You used to be fun. You used to be warped and twisted and hilarious... and I mean that in the best way - I mean it as a compliment!

11. We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other. (Best in Show) DebinHawaii

12. Well, I don't really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It's like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how - what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what's stopping it, and what's behind what's stopping it? So, what's the end, you know, is my question to you.

13. Well, you should of come to the first party. We didn't get home 'til around four in the morning. I was blind for three days!

14. Madam, I'm not in the habit of substituting for spurious Santa Clauses

15. Zuzu's Petals! Zuzu's Petals! (It's A Wonderful Life) Natashya

This Christmas cookie is based upon the Vanilla Nut Icebox Cookies from the McCall's Cooke Collection that was part of a set of cookbooks from 1965. I was given some Mexican chocolate as part of a Christmas care package and have been playing around using peppers and other types of savory with sweet in my baking.

Aztec Chocolate Cookies

2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt (don't substitute this!)
2/3 cup soft butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped Mexican chocolate (This is what I used and I've got some of this on order to try)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt together in medium bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in melted unsweetened baking chocolate, egg and vanilla and stir until loose dough is formed.

Stir in Mexican chocolate and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. Taste dough. If it is just right from a "spicy" standpoint, don't add rest of cayenne pepper. If you like it with a little more kick, add in rest of cayenne pepper.

Divide dough into half and roll each half into a log about 2" in diameter. Wrap each log in wax paper and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (Rolls can be stored in fridge for up to 10 days or frozen until ready to use).

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. With sharp knife, cut each cookie at about 1/8" thickness. Only cut as many slices as your cookie tray(s) will hold. Re-wrap the logs and place back in fridge between batches.

Place each slice on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes until dough turns light brown and set up. Check cookies at 8 minutes and bake longer if needed. Let cookie rest on cookie sheet for 2 - 3 minutes and move to cooling rack to cool completely. Let cookie sheet(s) cool completely before slicing more cookies.

Makes about 5 dozen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bread Baking Babes Ring in the Yule

Today is Bread Baking Babe day! We're all revealing the bread we baked this past month and when I tell you it was a wonderful bread to work with, well....wait 'til you see it!

But, before we get to this month's bread, let's take a look back the past year of bread and let's have some fun while we do it shall we?

To wrap up and review the past year of baking bread with the Babes, I bring you a little (trust me, it is little...very little) Christmas carol parody of all things bread from me to you and yours during this holiday season.

We Twelve Babes
(to the tune of We Three Kings)

We twelve babes of kneading are
Bearing bread we come from afar
Yeast and flour, salt and water
Following the perfect rise

O bread of wonder, bread of might
Bread with texture, fluffy and tight
Erstwhile reading, still we're kneading
Guide us to the perfect crumb

First a Crown from Bake My Day
So wet its dough, we couldn't believe
Knead forever, the Croc was a devil
These we will make again

O bread of wonder, bread of might
Bread with texture, fluffy and tight
Erstwhile reading, still we're kneading
Guide us to the perfect crumb

Pizza crust to offer have us
Potatoes on top, oh what a fuss
Poilane Miche by Sher we're praising
Breadchick's Dark Onion Rye

O bread of wonder, bread of might
Bread with texture, fluffy and tight
Erstwhile reading, still we're kneading
Guide us to the perfect crumb

Food for Sher, our sister we miss
Pitas were fun, flat breads we began
Sugary, sweetly, Sukerbolle making
All the world honey chat

O bread of wonder, bread of might
Bread with texture, fluffy and tight
Erstwhile reading, still we're kneading
Guide us to the perfect crumb

Braiding Challah gladly we did
Rosendal Crisp, much savory and sweet
gossip, laughing, all we're gathering
With Yule Wreaths to end our year.

To celebrate the Season with a theme appropriate bread, a Swedish Yule Wreath as offered in the cozy kitchen of Cookie Baker Lynn is the December bread.

BBB December Yule Wreath

We were given the chance to make this either sweet or savory and let me tell you, the creativity of the fillings my fellow Babes came up with was mind boggling. So after you finish here go check out all my fellow Bread Baking Babes' wreaths. You can find links to their blogs in my side bar.

I really enjoyed making this bread quite a bit. The dough was lovely and the technique of cutting and twisting was deceptively easy.

BBB December Yule Wreath After Rise
(after rising)

My sweet version filled almond paste, chocolate, and espresso disappeared in less than five minutes at the office. One of these will be gracing the table Christmas morning while I'm in Northern Michigan with my family the next few days.

Would you like to be able to make one of these? Would you like to be Bread Baking Buddy?! Then go over to see Lynn's post and get the details on how to join us this month as a buddy.

Speaking of bread gracing your table...

Did you know that if you live the greater NYC, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and you've always wanted to learn to make bread by hand but just don't think you can do I have an offer for you!

Menu for Hope V is in full swing

Menu for Hope V Logo

and one of the prizes The Sour Dough is offering is a chance for you to learn how make make bread completely and totally by hand with me.

Menu for Hope V Prize: Day of Bread Baking with Breadchick

This is a full day of bread making and we will do two breads, my No Fail Farmer's White and one other like whole wheat, cinnamon rolls, Challah or even the Swedish Yule Wreath if you want! The Day of Bread making with Breadchick is prize code UE06.

To bid on the Day of Breadmaking or the other prize The Sour Dough is offering, the LA Burdicks Chocolate Mice (UE05), or any of any other prizes my fellow food bloggers are offering all you need to do is:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim

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

3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice.

4. 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.

For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE05 and 3 tickets for UE06. Please write 2xUE05, 3xUE06

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 allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone. Promise!

6. Winners will be announced on Chez Pim on January 12, 2009.

One last thing, I'm in very, very, very snowy Northern Michigan (27" of snow in my parent's back yard!) until December 29th using the super speedy dial up at my folks house (28kbs!). So, if I'm a bit slow in replying to any comments or questions, please be patient.

OK, go bid on prizes, make Yule Wreaths, drink the Nog, spread the cheer, and don't forget to do what is really important, hug your family and friends...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blog Party #41: Traditions Dipped in a Glass of Milk

This month's edition of Blog Party hosted by Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness is all about holiday traditions!

blog party #41 traditon

Like Stephanie, my family always gathered from near and far for the holidays. We would gather at my Grandparent's house

Our Family's Cadillac House

on Lake Cadillac.

Me swimming in Lake Cadillac in Nov. 2007

(Yes, that is me swimming last November. It was the last time I was in the lake at my Grandfather's house. This was taken the afternoon after his funeral. He would have loved that I went swimming. The family sold the property this year and I'm so glad I did that because I will never get that chance again.)

For several days we would celebrate our family and friends with gatherings that always included punch for both adults and children and lots and lots of cookies. The cookies were always stored on the sun porch. Being Northern Michigan, the porch was just an extension of the ice box.

I remember the peanut butter cookies my Aunt Olga would bring over the most. They were soft and peanut buttery with a crunchy sugar coating. I regret I never got that recipe because every Christmas I crave those cookies.

For me, a personal tradition is making batches and batches of cookies. This year, my cookie baking was a bit smaller than normal but I made sure one cookie I make every year was on that plate, the Kiss Cookie. The Kiss Cookie is a peanut buttery with sugar crunch cookie with a chocolate kiss nestled in the center.

2008 Christmas Goodies

Along with the Kiss Cookie, I made two types of refrigerator cookies, amaretto vanilla and Aztec chocolate, and my mini chocolate chip tea cookies and two types of fudge, chocolate rum and chocolate walnut. Besides the Kiss Cookies, the Aztec chocolate cookie was a huge hit with their mix of sea salt and cayenne pepper to add a little kick to the Mexican chocolate.

But the Kiss Cookie is my tradition and I'm bringing a big tray of them to the party.

Speaking of Traditions...

Don't forget Menu for Hope V is going on right now.

Menu for Hope V Logo

We're offering two prizes here at The Sour Dough: a small box of LA Burdick Chocolate Mice and a Day of Bread Making with yours truly, Breadchick.

Menu For Hope V Prize: Burdick's Mice

To bid on these items or any of the other wonderful prizes being offered by my fellow food bloggers, go over to First Giving. Each $10 raffle ticket gets you once chance at the prize of your choice. So, go over there and help us support the school lunch program in Lesotho administrated by the UN World Food Programme.

Kiss Cookie

1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla
Granulated sugar for rolling cookie
36 unwrapped chocolate kiss candies

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream together peanut butter and brown sugar. Add in egg and vanilla. Slowly mix in dry ingredient mixture into a firm dough.

Form 1 Tbsp of dough into a ball and roll into granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 6 - 8 minutes until cookie is firm. Remove pan from oven and place into the center of each cookie one kiss candy, pressing down to crack cookie.

Return cookies to oven and let bake for 2 - 3 minutes or until cookies are just golden brown on edge.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu for Hope V: Gifts for a Food Lover and Lunch for School Children

Once again Chez Pim is hosting the food blogging event of the year, Menu for Hope.

Chez Menu for Hope Logo

Last year the food blogosphere raised over $100,000 to support the school lunch program of Lesotho through the UN World Food Programme. This year we are hoping to raise even more for the school.

You can go check out the prizes being offered by Chez Pim by visiting Chez Pim's Menu for Hope post this morning. There are links to the regional hosts, including East Coast host Steamy Kitchen.

Here at the Sour Dough we are offering two prizes:

Prize UEo5: A Small Box of LA Burdick Chocolate's mice

Menu For Hope V Prize: Burdick's Mice

I've offered this box of Burdick Mice every year and I am always pleased that it bids well and I get emails from the winner months later telling me how addicted they are to them even though they are almost too cute to eat. 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

Prize UE06: A Day of Bread Making with Breadchick:

Menu for Hope V Prize: Day of Bread 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, yeasts, King Arthur 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.

This was a pretty popular prize last year and I had a blast with the winner, who made some pretty awesome bread! Due to the nature of this prize, it is only offered to folks living in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the greater NYC area.

To bid on one of the prizes we are offering here at The Sour Dough or any other prizes all you need to do is:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim

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

3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice.

4. 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.

For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE05 and 3 tickets for UE06. Please write 2xUE05, 3xUE06

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 allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone. Promise!

6. Winners will be announced on Chez Pim on January 12, 2009.

OK, go get yourself or a loved one some cute mice chocolates or a day hanging out with me in your kitchen punching down some dough!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Spirit Abounds on Four Paws and Two Feet

Can you believe the weekend is over?!

LB's Sweet Face

I can't.

Mom has been going non-stop since she got up yesterday. She went to a fabulous performance of The Messiah last night with some friends and didn't get home until almost 1AM this morning. Then she was up and out the door by 7:30 to her coffee shop to read the Sunday NYT, go to the grocery store to pick up a few items to make the last of her Christmas cookies and the fudge. She came home to pack for her quick trip to Florida for work that she leaves on tomorrow morning, clean the house so the Cat Sitter doesn't think we live in a trash heap and now is writing out Christmas cards.

She told me to go ahead and post the Weekend Cat Blogging round-up and to make a very important announcement at the end.

We had eight kitties stop by and tell us about their weekends and quite a few of you are as excited as I am about the upcoming Christmas holiday.

First, Finding Sirius stopped by to share a picture of Finn and remind us all that no matter how brief a feline friend's stay may be, we leave little tiny paw prints on the hearts of our human companions.


Then Patchouli at Sidewalk Shoes did what I love to do; help Mom plan the upcoming week's menu by showing her the best recipe to make by laying right on top of the page in the cookbook.

pachulli_Sidewalk shoes

Tristan has a new nickname that I'm not repeating and that I agree from personal experience is completely unearned. Don't worry Tristan, my Mom says I have a biological weapon for a digestive system when I eat beef!


Diamond Emerald Eyes came by with two links and invites all kitties to ask Sandy Paws to send some good treats for both us and our humans.


Le Chat at Cuisine Guylaine has found a good place to hang out and watch the comings and goings of the kitchen.


Frequent visitor both when we host WCB and for all things baking, Marushka is all peaceful and calm as she waits for the hub-bub of the Holiday season to begin in full swing.

Maruschka_Rosa Yum

Speaking of holidays, Grr is channeling Madonna this year in hopes for all things material.


Finally, our good friends Tigger and Samantha are reminding us there are only 10 more days to go before Christmas!

Sam_Tigger Christmas Countdown

I better get shopping for Mom because I don't have one gift for her yet! But I know exactly WHERE I'm getting her gift.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go browse the items up for bid at the annual Food Blogging charity raffle, Menu for Hope V!!

Menu for Hope V Logo

Once again, Mom is going to be offering a few prizes for you to bid on and she wants you to come back tomorrow so you can see what she has up for auction.

Like last year, this year's proceeds will be supporting the school lunch program in Lesotho through the UN World Food Programme.

Even if you have all your shopping done for this year, come back tomorrow and check out Mom's prizes and then go bid on them. Raffle tickets are only $10 and it is super easy to do because we use First Giving.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging: Holiday Cheer With a Little Hangover

We're hosting Weekend Cat Blogging and let me tell you, holiday preparations were in full swing in our house this week!

LB Guards the Christmas Tree

Not only did Mom decide to pull out the Christmas tree, which she decorated very pretty even if it took up some of my spot by the window, but she even bought a new wreath to put on the front door.

The Wreath on the Front Door

Then she put some pine garland and a pretty wreath with a bow on the front door of the building.

Front of House with Wreath

I heard her tell a friend that she was going to finish decorating the front stoop this weekend with some lights and a few more big red bows. I'm not so sure though that is going to happen today considering she is still in bed!

She had her company holiday party yesterday afternoon. The office party started at noon and lasted until 4pm but she and a few colleagues continued the party after the official party ended at a local Irish pub. She came home around 8pm singing Christmas carols at the top of her lungs. She looked kind of funny in her high heel boots and red sweater dress, a big Santa Claus hat on her head, some blinking lights and tinsel she "stole" from some well dressed business guy at the bar around her neck (She said he only asked for a holiday kiss under some mistletoe for the lights and tinsel). She tossed her coat on the couch, took a few ibuprofen and drank a big glass of water before falling into bed in her party clothes and tinsel still on. Now, she is telling me my purring sounds like a freight train running across her forehead. I say serves her right kissing strange men under mistletoe....

At least she got most of her Christmas baking done this week. She was in the kitchen every night after work making a different cookie for her cookie packages that will be delivered to friends this upcoming week. She is going to post about those later this week.

It wasn't only cookies she was baking either. On Monday night she finally cut into that whole Country Ham she brought back from Tennessee after Thanksgiving.

Cubed Country Ham

She stuck with her Pantry Plan too by making a quiche of spinach from the freezer, onion and swiss from the fridge and the ham of course. She used her go to crust from Alice Water's Simple Cooking. It was fantastic tasting and she had enough to share with a friend at work, who told her it was the best quiche she had ever had!

Spinach Country Ham Quiche

Speaking of the Pantry Plan, Mom told me quite a few friends of hers have been playing along with her and she loves to see what people are doing on their own versions of the Pantry Plan. Mom still follows her plan and has reduced her weekly grocery bill to under $50 a week by not only planning her menu around what she has on hand but also paying attention to the weekly grocery fliers and only buying what is in season for fresh veggies.

OK, I'm feeling pretty tired from all this typing and it is time for my mid-morning nap. I think I'll just curl up right here under the Christmas tree until Mom gets up,

LB Naps Under the Christmas Tree

takes that stupid tinsel off her face where it settled some time in the middle of the night, and has a long hot shower while drinking a huge pot of coffee and then figures out what she is going to do for the rest of the day before she heads out for another evening out on the town.

I'm betting she doesn't stir until at least noon!

If you want to tell us what you and your kitties are doing this weekend. Just leave me a comment. I'll post about each and every one of you tomorrow evening.

If you want to make Mom's fantastic Country Ham and Spinach quiche

Slice of Spinach Country Ham Quiche

here is the recipe.

Country Ham and Spinach Quiche

2 Tbsp butter (use unsalted because of the salt in the ham)
1 Cup chopped, cooked Country Ham (any ham will do)
1 small onion, chopped
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid pressed out
2 Tbsp flour (any type of flour will work)
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk (don't use skim but 1% works fine)
1/4 tsp sage
1 tsp Herbs Provence
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
9" pie crust (your favorite recipe or store bought is fine)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare pie crust if making from scratch and put in prepared pie pan. If using frozen crust, remove from freezer and let thaw. If using refrigerator pie crust, remove from fridge, follow directions and put in prepared pie crust.

In small skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute until slightly brown. Remove onions from skillet, add 1 Tbsp of butter and ham. Saute until slightly brown. Add onions back in to combine, remove from heat and set aside.

Combine spinach and flour and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, herbs, and pepper. Stir in ham, spinach and 3/4 cup of cheese. Pour into crust and bake for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, sprinkle remaining cheese over top of quiche. Use foil or pie ring if crust is getting too brown and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes longer or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes for quiche to firm up before slicing.

Serve with lettuce salad and white wine for a nice lunch or makes a great Holiday morning breakfast with fresh baked cinnamon rolls and mimosas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Can't Live Without You

I love Google Analytics.

I was reviewing my traffic this morning to see how the switch back to Blogger while I look for a new hosting company was affecting my traffic to The Sour Dough and I saw this website is in my top 25 Referring sites.

So, I guess there are lots of you Sour Dough fans out there who like Barry Manilow?!

I'm not sure what this says about me, my blog, or my average reader but party on in your red velvet suits boys and girls!

And hey, I hear that Best of the 80's music album he just put out is pretty jammin'

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Haming It Up

I'm a very bad blogger. I have nothing to say but I'm sorry for the long period of silence since Thanksgiving.

I got back from Tennessee where I had a very nice Thanksgiving for the most part. The dinner at the Martha Washington Inn was pretty good. The only two things that the entire party agreed upon was the stuffing was pretty bad and we missed the crispy skin of the turkey (the kitchen had taken all the skin off before carving the turkey). Also, I had the worst Bloody Mary I've ever had because the bar tender wasn't working and the wait staff was mixing drinks. The prime rib and apple crepes were fantastic and they had a self saucing chocolate cake that was to die for. The green beans and smoked salmon were great too.

Of course while I was down there I had plenty of good Southern cooking. I had green beans with salt back, buttermilk biscuits, homemade pecan pie and sweet potato pie. One of the neighbors brought over butterscotch pie right from the oven. It was like eating the best homemade butterscotch pudding with a big fluffy cloud of meringue with a flaky crust underneath it all. We each had a big piece for dinner that night!

We celebrated Christmas while I was there as well and I came home with one of the best food Christmas presents ever...

A whole country ham!

A Whole Country Ham!

Just look at all that cured pork goodness.

I've got all sorts of dishes planned for this porcine wonder. Things like country ham and biscuits, split pea soup and ham, sweet potato and ham casserole, country ham and scrambled eggs. I'm sure I'll have to share some with the cat too. But only little scraps.

My fridge smells fantastic every time I open the door and I find myself fondling the ham when I am rummaging around looking for things like yeast and flour to start my Christmas baking.

If you had a whole country ham, what would you fix?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Off Down South For Thanksgiving

I'm off tomorrow before the sun even rises to head down to Tennessee for Thanksgiving. I'm spending the holiday with Wren's mother and the extended family. I admit I'm looking forward to seeing them under better circumstances than when I visited two months ago. I'm hoping that I can enjoy my time with her and the family. It will be sad in many ways but hopefully it will also be good for us all.

We are going to The Martha Washington Inn for Thanksgiving. The Inn was a girl's finishing school during the Civil War and has a very interesting history. I'm looking forward to the meal and looking around the Inn.

I'm leaving LB in charge of the house while I'm gone but I'm not sure he will have a chance to log on and write for Weekend Cat Blogging. Diamond Eagle Eyes is hosting this weekend in case you and your kitties want to participate.

When I get back, get ready for the holiday baking to begin. I already warned the office to expect some really good stuff...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eating From The Desk Drawer: Sometimes You Win and Other Times...

If you are like me and work in an office, you probably have a drawer dedicated to snacks and quick fix meals for those times you just can't get away from the desk for lunch, don't really like what you brought, or are working late and don't want another night of Chinese delivery.

I like to keep fairly healthy meals on hand (I said FAIRLY healthy). For example, my drawer currently contains one container of Healthy Choice Minestrone soup, a box of spring vegetable Cup of Soup, packets of instant oatmeal and Cream of Wheat, a box of granola to add to yogurt or snack from the box on, some lightly salted almonds, a box of multi-grain crackers and three Jif to Go's.

One of the things I really like to have on hand is the Starkist Lunch to Go. My only complaint about these is there aren't enough crackers to match the amount of tuna. So, I always have to use two or three extra crackers from my stash (thus the box of mulit-grain crackers).

A few weeks ago, I was restocking my drawer at the store and I saw the Bumblebee version of the Lunch to Go and decided to give them a whirl. I picked up a regular and a fat-free version. Besides, I had a coupon for them making them significantly cheaper than the Sunkist version.

Earlier this week, on a day I was up to my eyeballs in AutoCAD drawings and loudspeaker specifications, I reached for the fat-free pack for my lunch


and was

Frankly horrified and absolutely disgusted by the product. I can honestly say I don't think since I tried Rocky Mountain Oysters have I ever put anything as vile tasting in my mouth. The "tuna salad" tasted so chemical, overly sweet and oily I actually gagged. Not to mention who puts carrots in their tuna salad? I spit it out in a napkin and immediately looked at the good by date to make sure it hadn't expired. It wasn't expired, it was just nasty.

I saved the crackers, tossed the disgusting tuna salad in the trash can in the kitchen area, and went to my desk drawer and got out my last Starkist Lunch to Go. I happily enjoyed lunch.

I'm not sure what to do with the other Bumblebee Tuna Salad meal. I know I should probably give the Bumblebee versions another try because maybe it was just the fat free version that was nasty. But, somehow I think it will find its way out in the communal food area of the office kitchen for anyone who is brave.

What do you keep in your desk drawer for lunch?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winging It with Rye and Wheat

A couple of weekends ago, Sara and I got together online to bake this month's Bread Baking Babe bread, The Rosendal Crisp Bread. This bread was built around a rye sourdough starter. Not wanting another starter living our fridges, both Sara and I took our own wheat sourdough starters to rye starters by over a few days changing up the flour we fed them. Larry got the call up from my starter line up for me as Moe and Curly have both been baked with in the past couple of weeks and Craterface found himself out on the counter over at Sara's.

One of the curses or benefits, depending on how you look at it, of working with starters is after you power feed them in preparation to bake with them you always have extra. If you plan ahead, you can use that toss off to bake other goodies or make pancakes for dinner because the toss off is just as active the part of the starter you use to bake. Unfortunately, on the day that Sara and I got together I wasn't really thinking about using the toss off so I had no plan, and that lack of planning turned out to be the best stroke of baking luck I've had in quite a while.

It was while I was pondering what to do with the toss off that I also began to think about all the small amounts of various rye and wheat flours I had tucked away in the freezer. Doing some quick calculations in my head and a little math on a scratch piece of paper, I figured that Sara and I had enough toss off starter left over from our Crisp Bread to make a very good sized loaf of sandwich bread based around rye flour and whole wheat bread flour. A quick query and I had a partner in crime. That is what I love so much about Sara, she is always game to try one of my crazy, on the fly, off the cuff bread recipes.

Using the toss off rye starter, we created a sponge

Wing it Rye Sponge

and then built a nice firm but slightly tacky dough from the sponge.

Wing it Rye Dough

Rye flour often will become gummy but a 50/50 split of rye and wheat flour gave this dough good structure. A quick rise and then we both got to work on our slashing skills

Wing It Rye Bread Risen

and I basted the top of mine with some melted butter before popping it into the oven for about 40 minutes.

Another caveat about working with rye, wheat or mulit-grain flours, is that the baking times are longer and the final internal temperature is normally a bit higher than with white flour breads.

Taking the Temperature of Bread

I like to get my rye, wheat and mulit-grain flour breads up around 190 - 200 degrees internally. This sometimes means having to tent the bread to prevent it from over browning.

Finally, the last thing we had to do was wait for the bread to completely cool before slicing into the bread. If you slice into rye based breads before they cool completely you end up with a gummy loaf of bread.

So, what did our taste testers think of our "Wing It Bread"? My bread was taken into the office and pretty much had disappeared by noon. I heard that there were fisticuffs over the loaf heel in Sara's house with Scott ending up the winner.

If you ask me, Sara ended up the winner because she had the most incredible spread on her slash.

Sara's Wing It Rye
Sara's Wonderful Slash on her Wing It Sandwich Loaf

And we both ended up with a keeper of a recipe. Don't you just love accidental recipe success?

Both of us enjoyed this so much, I'm submitting the Wing It Rye Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf to Susan of Wild Yeast for this week's edition of "Yeast Spotting".

Wing It Rye Bread
My Lovely Loaf of Wing It Rye Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

Wing It Rye Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

1 cup rye starter
1/2 cup water, warm (90 degrees)
1/2 fresh yeast cube or 2 tsp active/instant yeast
3 Tbsp Honey
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water and combine with starter and honey. Stir
in flours to make wet sponge. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes

1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bread or AP flour (reserve 1/4 cup in case your dough is too wet)
1 1/4 tsp salt

Stir in flours, holding back the reserved 1/4 cup of AP/bread flour, and salt to sponge to form firm but tacky dough. Add reserved flour if dough is too soft and does not form a dough ball. Knead until dough is springy about 7 minutes or so in a stand mixer. Let rest for 10 minutes and then knead by hand for about 2 - 4 minutes. Dough will be tacky but not clumpy sticking to your hand.

Form into loaf and place in prepared large loaf pan. Cover and let rise until loaf is about 1" over edge of loaf pan.

If you want, split top with sharp knife/razor blade and brush melted butter on top. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until inside is about 200 degrees.

Let cool completely, about 2 - 4 hours, before slicing.

Note about this recipe: You will need to already have an active sourdough starter. You can find a recipe for a sourdough starter here.

To take your starter from wheat flour to rye you need at least three days before you want to make this bread. Here is how you do that:

Divide into 2 halves.

Feed one half the "normal" 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, let sit on counter for 4 hours or until bubbly and put back in fridge (This is your mother starter)

Feed the other half 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, let sit on counter for 4 hours until bubbly. Divide into half. Use one half to make pancakes, muffins, etc and feed the other half 1/4 cup rye flour, 1/4 cup AP flour and 1/2 cup water. Let sit for 8 hours and feed again 1/4 cup rye, 1/4 cup AP flour and 1/2 cup water and let sit overnight on counter.

Next morning, feed 1/2 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water. Let ferment for 24 hours. Divide in 2 (toss off 1/2 or make some dark onion rye - ha!) and feed other half 1/2 cup rye and 1/2 cup water. Wait 8 hours, stir up and use or you can put in fridge until ready to use. If you put it in the fridge, let it come to room temperature and stir in any hooch before you make the Wing It Sandwich loaf.