Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring Tour of the Yard and a Surpising Edible Discovery

Well, I'm working those stupid hours again. Meaning there isn't any cooking going on in my kitchen other than the kind that includes pouring milk over the cereal and fruit at 10pm when I finally walk through the front door.

Tonight though I absolutely refused to let the short New England spring pass me by. The past two days it has been in the middle 70s and not a cloud in the sky. So, at 6pm I called it a day and walked out into the sun. After feeding a surprised LB, who if this work schedule keeps up is going to have to learn to pop the cat food tin open on his own, I fixed myself a nice gin and tonic and decided to tour the yard and admire the spring flowers in all their glory.

Daffodils are my favourite flower and while they start showing up in their forced form in middle February, it isn't until late April and early May that the bulbs in the yard show their pretty yellow


and white and orange heads.


My landlord and his wife planted quite a few daffodils and tulips while they lived in the house. They also planted lots of other flowers I can't identify. Like these lovely little purple-blue creatures


Then there are these exploding fire cracker like blue and white flowers


They must have liked blue because these are all over the side yard


and while it is really on my Indian neighbor's yard, who are currently cooking with the most wonderful smelling spices, I can't help but admire this red, red bush.


Flowers aren't the only thing my landlord and his wife left me. She had an herb garden and when they moved to their new house, she left it behind. Apparently these are some hardy herbs because the tarragon has re-emerged.


The most surprising thing I found in my tour of the yard though were the clumps and clumps of wild onions and chives.


Between the tarragon and the chives, I can't wait to forage in my yard for the makings of an herb omelette...

when the work craziness slows down that is.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When the Babes Bake A Pie That's Amore!

Sometimes a girl just has to have a big slice of pizza pie and wash it down with a tall glass of cold beer and sometimes a girl wants to have a bunch of her friends over, make some dough and craft her own house special.

When my crazy work schedule made it impossible for me to be Host Kitchen for the Bread Baking Babes this month, Tanna stepped right up and led us to the pizza parlor to make Maggie Glezer's Sullivan Street Potato Pizza.

BBB April Logo
Ironically, this recipe is from the same book, Artisan Baking, that Karen selected the Royal Crown Tortano and plunged us all back in the wet end of the dough pool as well with a 109% hydration dough. The plus of this was we would get a really crisp crust, which as far as I am concerned is the way pizza should be. The only problem was I never got the dough to come together the way the recipe said it should.

After forty full minutes of kneading with Isabelle all I had was soup. I wasn't feeling Babe-like at all. I pressed on and tried to bake it with the potatoes, onions, and rosemary and ended up with a black mess that set off the smoke detector and made LB run from the room to hide under the bed, not to be seen the rest of the night. Running out the back door into the wet Connecticut night with a smoking mass of potato pizza, I tossed it into my compost pile with plans to take funny pictures the next morning.

But when I went out the next morning to take a picture of the mess all that was left was one lone mass of potato.

Burnt Baking Babe Pizza

I guess the neighborhood cats and squirrels must have had a pizza party in my backyard over night.

Across the country, Tanna, our queen of pushing recipes to their max, was also struggling with Maggie's pizza dough. Actually a cry was heard from across the Atlantic as well as one of our sisters in crime, Gorel, showed us her ocean of dough running down and across her pan. I think she was contemplating getting the surf board out as it truly was soup with waves.

After much chatter on our private blog, Queen Tanna came back with another pizza dough option, Daniel Leader's Genzano Potato Pizza. This dough promised to be a bit more solid with only 80% hydration. Taking my water wings off, I dove right in. This dough came together very nicely after about 15 minutes had it clearing the bowl. Two hour and a half rising times later I had pizza dough that was ready to go.

Because it was just me, I divided the dough into two balls and threw one into the freezer for later use. The other half I got ready to roll out

BBB Pizza Dough

OK, confession time here. Once I got the dough rolled out I just couldn't bring myself to put potatoes on top of pizza. I'm sorry Tanna. I don't blame you and the girls if you run me out of town on a rail and revoke my special BBB panties for not using potatoes (hangs my head low with shame). But, every time I thought about this pizza as I was waiting for the dough to rise all I saw was the pizza I have grown to love from Amerigo Pizza, my local pizza place; a delightful combination of a crispy crust pizza topped with fresh tomato, basil, and capers.

Once I got this lovely dough rolled out I just couldn't bring myself to top it with potatoes when I could top it with this

Caper and Basil Pizza Before Baking
See! Isn't it lovely? Doesn't look fresh and inviting? It was like looking at spring on dough.

The Leader dough baked super crisp but had a nice chewy inside. I do admit, I left it in a bit longer than the recipe called for because I like really crisp crust. But, when the pizza came out of the oven, it was as if Amerigo had delivered a hot pie to my house.

Caper and Basil Pizza

I'll definitely be making this crust again and I'm excited I have a ball of dough in the freezer to use very soon.

To check out all my Bread Baking Babes, A Fridge Full of Food (Glenna), Bake My Day (Karen), Cookie Baker Lynn (Lynn), I Like to Cook (Sara), Living on Bread and Water (Monique), Lucullian Delights (Ilva), My Kitchen in Half Cups (Tanna), Grain Doe (Gorel), Notitie van Lien (Lien), Thyme of Cooking (Katie), and What Did You Eat (Sher) to check out how the pizza should have looked with the potato on top. Now that I'm looking at all those pizzas maybe I'll be able to put potatoes on top.

Also, if you want to join us as a Bread Baking Buddy for this pizza party, go visit our Host Kitchen, Tanna and bake either Maggie's or Daniel's pizza some time this week. Send her a note with a link to your post if you have a blog or drop her an email with picture of you pizza and she'll send you a nifty badge for your blog and include you our monthly round-up!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Simple Last Supper

There are nights when I'm traveling for business that I just don't feel like going out on the town and having a huge meal and lots of adult beverages with my colleagues. These nights typically follow either a hedonistic dinner the night before or are the last meal I have before boarding an airplane for a really long flight.

If it is the last night on a long trip, quite often I'll order a simple salad and a bowl of fruit from room service and spend the evening in my pjs packing to navigate airport security the next day. But if I'm in a city I particularly love, like London or Paris, I will pack and then venture out to a small restaurant off the tourist path to enjoy one last meal with the locals. This last meal on this particular trip was no exception especially now that I've added Moscow to one of my favourite cities to visit.

On this night, I didn't need to venture far to find a good light meal containing all the local delicacies. All I had to do is push down on the elevator and wander to the Diamond Bar for a light supper that included a plate of smoked fish, a small lobster, and caviar

and some fresh from the griddle bread.

To finish my meal I had a piece of hazelnut mousse cake and washed it all down with a glass of Russian champagne (OK, maybe there were two or three of these!).

Since you can't take Russian rubles with you when you leave and the exchange rate back to US dollars is awful, it is best to try and spend as many of them as you can before you leave. Luckily, I had just a little more than needed to pay my bill in cash and leave just enough for a Russian Kit Kat bar at the airport.

I somehow don't think this is the type of light meal I'm having tomorrow night...

Why I Love Breakfast in Europe

For those of you that know me, you know that breakfast is my favourite meal. It doesn't matter whether it is a bowl of cold cereal with morning sun warmed strawberries and cream or a big plate of eggs benedict from my local breakfast joint on a Sunday. Sometimes I even eat breakfast for dinner.

But no place do I love breakfast more than when I'm in Europe. I'm in love with the buffet breakfasts served at the hotels I stay at when I'm on business. The variety of foods served range from cold cuts, cheese, and pickles to petit fours. The only constant for me no matter London, Milan, Moscow, Paris or Rome is I always have a pot tea with milk and one lump for breakfast. I love the little pots of tea made with loose tea. Even the bags of tea taste better when I'm sipping a cup in Europe.

In London, the K&K George serves breakfast in a lovely sun filled room and the scrambled eggs, broiled mushrooms and tomatoes, rasher bacon and scones are to die for. In Moscow, it is the smoked fish and caviar at the Golden Ring and the pots of dark Russian tea. In Rome, it is the fruit and meats served with crusty bread at the Hotel Delle Nazioni.

The only place I don't partake of the hotel breakfast is in Paris. I always stay at the same hotel, Ville Des Artistes. It is located about 2o steps from the Metro stop, Vavin and the famed Le Dome and La Coupole restaurant. But for me, these restaurants don't hold a candle to the pot of tea and croissant I get for petit dejeuner at the bakery on the corner.

Breakfast in Paris

I sit at a stool facing the street the school kids walk down on their way to morning classes, read Le Monde and sip my tea while planning my day.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Back From the Dead...

Did you miss me?!

Bet you have been wondering where in the world I've been!! Well, that is a story for another morning when I have a bit more time than right now. Suffice it to say that The Sour Dough has been on an unplanned hiatus due to technical difficulties. (The Sour Dough on Blogger is a live running backup of my home site at If you are reading this on Blogger, take a wander over there and see all the additional site features!)

You see last week Earthlink telepathically determined that we wanted to terminate our high speed internet service and authorized Comcast, who provides the actual Earthlink cable internet service in Cambridge, MA where the server The Sour Dough is hosted on is located, to turn off our the pole. Yup, some time on Wednesday a guy drove up to the house in Cambridge, climbed up the pole and pulled the plug.

The thing is neither W nor I authorized either Earthlink or Comcast to disconnect us.

This was a snafu on Earthlink's part followed by a tragedy of errors on Comcast's part. The first person we both spoke to was very apologetic but because they had disconnected us at the pole, something we found out was unusual and had everyone we talked to at Comcast scratching their head, there was nothing she could do to restore our service on Wednesday night and the soonest anyone could come back was on Friday sometime between 7am and 7pm.

So, why weren't we back up last night? Apparently, the tech decided goingt to the pub instead of up the pole was more important. The tech that came to the house today was flabbergasted. Anyways, we are back and I'm so glad.

OK, it is early here and I'm off for a day of travel and fun but next week we'll be back with bread, a few photos, and recipes for sure.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I Know Where I'm Going for My Last Meal on Earth

Last night, I had a meal that well frankly will go down as probably the best meal I have ever had in my life. Period. In fact, I'm pretty sure I will never eat as well as I ate last night ever again. Because last night, I took my mom here

Yup, that would be the hallowed ground of Babbo, Mario Batali's flagship restaurant.

We started with Armamdino's Salumi and ended with an assortment of gelati and sorbetti and a selection of five cheeses. They were all excellent, especially the fresh taste of the Salumi. If you have never had salumi made the old fashioned way, then you have no idea what you are missing! Go, immediately and find a place to get slow cured salumi. NOW! As good as both the beginning and the end of the meal was, the plates in between were where the magic was.

My mom had a simple pasta dish with mussels and Porcini mushrooms. The pasta was the most perfectly made pasta I have ever tasted. It was al dente and infused with the garlic and citrus broth from the mussels. I had a porcine wonderment of smoked jowl with pancetta and fennel served with gnocchi. To say this was good would be a shameful lie. It was more than good. In fact, according to the thesaurus I just consulted there are no appropriate adjectives to describe how fabulous this dish was. It was that good.

Again, after last night, I have decided that there is no finer animal on four legs to eat than the pig. I have always loved the pig for both its bacon and chops and frankly, I just like pigs. They are cool and interesting animals at all levels. But after last night, I believe that when the "higher power" decided to endow one animal with the best possibilities for exceptional food, he/she chose the pig. A more perfect meal has never trod upon four legs.

When I die, I want someone to wrap me in bacon and shove a huge smoked ham hock under my arm and if both come from Babbo, then I will know I've made it to the promised land....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Starter That Wouldn't Die!

Oh drat, that work thing again. No, I'm not dead, yet. But if I keep having to work thirteen plus hour days the way I have the past three weeks, including all the weekends, I may be soon!

And Bob isn't dead either. With the the crazy work schedule, something happened that hasn't happened ever...I forgot to feed Bob! Bob hasn't had food since Sunday.

No, please don't call the Starter Abuse Hotline!!! Bob is perfectly fine. In fact, this is a good example of how forgiving this starter is.

If you forget to feed your starter don't sweat it! Just stir all the hooch back in. You should have big layer of hooch if you miss a feeding.

After you stir your starter up and get that hooch incorporated, you should notice it gets foamy. That is good.

And then give your starter its normal feeding.

Notice how bubbly Bob got after his feeding tonight?

I'll probably give him two feedings tomorrow just get him back to strength and then I'm going to prep him for some baking.

A couple days ago, I also promised you a little tip to bring your starter out of the moodies if by Day 10, he/she was still feeling sluggish and not getting perky after the switch to an all AP diet.

First, how do you know your starter isn't fully adjusted? Basically you will only have little bubbles and a sour smell and taste but not the happy bubbly and foamy starter like below.

If this happens, it is time to entice your starter to come out and see the sunshine!

Here is how you do this:

Give it a feeding using 1/8 cup rye flour, 3/8 cup AP flour and a pinch of sugar and just a little less than 1/2 cup of water. The reason for a little more flour vs water is to give it lots of food to get all excited over. Give it this feeding 2X in a 24 hour period. You should see life come back into your starter. Then go back to the normal AP flour feeding.

If you don't see life come back into the starter, give it another day of the 2X "booster shot" above and see what happens.

If after all that all you have is still sludge well... time to give your starter a goldfish funeral and start afresh. But before you do that, email me and we'll do a starter diagnosis.

My mom flies into NYC tomorrow night to spend a long weekend with me. I'm probably not going to be blogging much while she is here and I'm definitely NOT working while she is here. But, I can guarantee I'm baking while she's here because we love to be in the kitchen together.

It's going to be a good time!