Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes the Best French Dining Comes in Surprising Places

I'm back in my beloved Shenandoah Valley this week.

The top of the hill behind the cows

I'm in the early stages of a project thatwill give me the excuse to visit the valley and the surrounding environs often over the next few months and nothing could please me more.

Last September, when I was vacationing in the area, I discovered that the valley is a little foodie paradise; especially between Strasburg and Roanoke. The key to discovering this land of tiny but fantastic restaurants, farm stands filled with just picked produce, and shops filled with local delicacies is to get off the Interstate and drive Route 11.

Tonight, while staying in Lexington, I had the pleasure of dining at a French restaurant that was as much at home in Virginia as it would be in any small French village or New York City for that matter, Cafe Michel.

I admit, I had done a little research before descending in Lexington for the evening. I googled "Best Restaurant Lexington, VA" and Cafe Michel kept popping up with every link. After visiting the restaurant's webpage and checking out the menu, I knew that was were I was going for dinner.

When I arrived in my hotel room, I called to see if I could get a table for one. Luckily, I was able to and now let me tell you why, the next time I'm any where near Lexington, I'm going to make it my mission to go back to Cafe Michel.

Even though this was my first visit to the restaurant, I was greeted like I was a returning regular. Maybe I'm jaded, living in the greater NYC area by the typically cold or lack of any greeting when I enter a restaurant but nothing makes you ready for a good dinner than a friendly, we are really to happy to see you and we want to make sure your dining experience is good greeting by the host or hostess.

After being shown to my seat, which wasn't off in the corner which is somewhat typical when you are dining alone, I was given the menu and wine list and a basket of nice soft bread was placed on my table. I ordered a nice Oregon Pinot Noir and told the evening specials.

I was pretty sure when I walked in to the restaurant that I would be ordering the smoked salmon but when my waitress mentioned that the house special country pate was the appetizer special, I quickly decided that I would have the pate.

I wish I had remembered to bring my camera in to take a picture of the textbook pate. It was perfectly marbled with meat and fat and wrapped in country smoked bacon. On the plate with the generous slices of pate were grilled slices of the same bread in the basket, a small herb salad with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. The pate was absolutely fantastic. In fact, it was the best pate I've had since my last visit to Paris. I could eat Chef Michel Galand's country pate every day for the rest of my life and die very, very happy. Yes, very happy indeed.

Had I known that the pate was going to be that fantastic, I would not have ordered a salad but the champagne vinaigrette on the salad was the perfect combination of sweet and tangy that vinaigrette should be and the shaved carrots in the salad were nice and crisp, perfect to be dipped into the vinaigrette.

I was in the mood for a light pasta dish for dinner so I ordered the Chicken Bianco. It was also very, very good. The chicken wasn't over cooked, the white wine sauce well seasoned and the pasta perfectly done. I especially liked that the parmesan cheese was tossed into the pasta and not just shaved over top. The heat of the pasta caused the parmesan cheese to begin to melt and helped form these tight swirls of pasta to collect the sauce with.

I finished my meal with a creme brulee cheesecake that was every bit as good as anything I get at Juniors in Brooklyn. Come to find out, they get their cheesecakes shipped in from New York City but other than the cheesecake, they make all their desserts. Another reason to come back to try the crepes and the creme brulee.

The best part of my dinner, besides the pate (did I mention how good the pate was?), was the nice long chat I had with Chef Galand while I finished my coffee.

He told me about coming to America after working at resorts in Bermuda to cook as a chef at the Homestead. After a stint in Wisconsin, he came back to Virginia to open his first restaurant in Coventry before opening Cafe Michel in Clifton Forge. About five years ago he moved his restaurant to Lexington, including the customized ice box that serves as the wine cooler and is prominently displayed in the middle of the restaurant. After showing me the kitchen, we went out to the bar area where he has pictures of his hometown on the Swiss border prominently displayed.

Besides the wonderful pictures of the local food market, I especially loved the pictures of the communal oven where the residents of his tiny home village still bake bread. I wanted to run right over there and shove a loaf of my pain de champagne right into the blackened brick maw.

We then walked over to the wall where Chef Galand's many, many awards and reviews are displayed including his prized signed photo of Gordon Ramsey and a signed article from the Washington post about his best friend, former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier.

We stood and chatted about the joys of tripe and pigs feet before he sent me on my way back to my hotel with fresh strawberries sliced on the last half of my creme brulee cheesecake. I can't wait to come back to Cafe Michel on my return to Lexington and have the smoked salmon for a starter.

Chef tells me he cold smokes it fresh and I'm a sucker for cold smoked salmon...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Making Dough Stretch The Daring Baker's Way!

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

DB Apple Strudel

Apple Strudel. Serve it warm with a big ole scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Trust me.

You'll be going " strudel" all day long.

To see other scrumptilicious strudels get your lederhosen on and check out my fellow Daring Baker's creations. Thanks Courtney and Linda for a fun challenge.

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

- Ingredients are cheap so make a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge: Greek Celebration Bread

Oh, Peter.

I really truly wanted to like the Greek Celebration bread.

BBA: Christopsomos Out of the Oven

Honestly, I did.

Especially after running my fingers through the luscious dough that rose so high and puffy.

BBA: Poofy Christo Dough (he-he)

I even laughed at myself for calling the dough "Puffy Christo Dough" since I was going to make the Christopsomos version of Greek Celebration Bread. I cooed at it and chatted up a storm with my "Puffy Dough". I get that way when I'm working with the dough from one of my starters.

I used Harpo for this bread since I'd been feeding him regularly the past two weeks to give some away to two students at a bread baking class I taught last weekend. Nice, mild and easy does it is Harpo's way. Aptly named starter wouldn't you say?

The bread baked nicely and the crumb was a delight

Bread Baker's Apprentice: Greek Celebration Bread Christopsomos sliced open

but there was just something that didn't click with me when I took my first bite.

Maybe it is the combination of cloves and allspice I don't like in this bread or maybe the fruit combination I used. I had a mix of dates, apricots, golden raisins and currants on hand from another dessert I made a few weeks ago. Frankly, dried fruit is expensive so I did substitute.

Or, maybe it was the 1 1/2 extra cups of precious bread flour I had to add to the soup I started with to get the dough even close to the description in the Bread Baker's Apprentice.

I don't know and maybe won't ever know but I'm sorry Peter and you lovely Puffy Christo Dough.

I really and truly am...

Breadchick Rating of BBA Recipe:
2 Loaves out of a possible 5

Two Loaves out of Five

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Search Gone Awry...In a Very Good Way

I didn't intend to end up visiting the four corners of Manhattan when I woke up on Saturday morning.

I had no intention what so ever of doing anything but sleeping in late, leisurely puttering around the house until midday and then going into "town" about 4ish to meet some friends at the roof top bar of the MET for drinks and the best views one can have while holding an adult beverage of Central Park for six bucks (or six bucks plus the price of admission if you aren't a memeber) before embarking on an evening of debauchery in the Big Apple.

But, after reading about Nutella and Go on Baking Bites, I got a wild hair and quickly gathered myself for a day of searching the various food shops that specialize in European imports for those little packages of Nutella and dipping biscuits. I was going to go find some and triumphantly take them into the office for all to oogle and be in awe of my luck. Besides, I was out of Jif to Go and what better item to replace those little containers of peanut butter with than little containers of Nutella?

Deciding my best plan of attack to find the Nutella and Go was to hit the stores specializing in the cuisine of the countries I know that Nutella is one of the major food groups, I added to my Google map of NYC Food and Cookbook Store the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side, collected my things for a day and night in NYC in my "city bag", fed LB a generous helping of cat food along with leaving two windows open for him to catch the early summer breezes from the sound, and took the 11am train into Grand Central.

I started with a visit to the Yorkville section of the Upper East Side for a stop in one of my two favorite cookbook stores, Kitchen Arts and Letters. I love this little store crammed full of new and old cookbooks. I had the store to myself and after perusing several lengthy and heavy tomes on bread baking and pastry, I was a good girl and left without purchasing anything to add to my ever expanding cookbook collection.

Next stop, Schaller & Weber, the venerable German grocer on the corner of 2nd Ave and 86th street.

Schaller & Weber German Grocer in NYC

I've stopped in here before to quench an addiction of mine for lemon filled crisp cookies by Manner

Manner Crisp Wafers from Vienna

but I had never really bought anything else. Since I knew I was meeting friends later and the weather was delightful, I decided to add some German salamis and cheese to my purchases.

Mixed German Salami and Bavarian Swiss from Schaller & Weber

I figured we all might like to go sit in Central Park before emarking on our evening of drinking for an impromptu picnic of various meats, cheeses, and other goodies I might discover while searching for the Nutella and Go.

Right next to Schaller & Weber is the Heidelberg Restaurant,

Heidelberg Restaurant NYC

one of the last places along the "German Broadway" where they still pull good German beer the old fashioned way, slow and long, and that you can get the German equivalent of a Ploughman's Lunch

The German Version of a Ploughman's Lunch

Wurstbrot mit Kartoffelsalat (sausage loaf with potato salad). I opted to get mine with a fried egg on top. The egg had a still soft center that when I cut into it spilled over the Wurstbrot and when paired with the fantastic true German pumpernickel from the bread basket and washed down with a "Frau" liter of Hasenbrau

German Bread Basket at the Heidelberg

was exactly the type of stick to my ribs lunch I needed before heading to the Village and my next stop, Myers of Keswick.

But not before a stop at the place that I and quite a few other New Yorkers think has the best cupcakes in NYC, Two Little Red Hens

Two Little Red Hens Bakery in Yorkville, NYC

for a little dessert of two mini cupcakes, one red velvet with cream cheese frosting and the other yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. I devoured them before I even thought to take a picture.

A twenty minute subway ride with a change from the Downtown 6 to the Shuttle at Grand Central and a jump onto, literally, of the Downtown 1 at Times Square to Christopher/Sheridan found me at the doorstep of my absolute favorite cookbook store in the world, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks.

Bonnie is the absolute queen of all cookbooks old. If the cookbook was published and can still be found extant, she either has it or knows where to get it. I'd like to tell you I had the same restraint I had at Kitchen Arts and Letters but I would be so completely telling a lie. I mean when one is confronted with a vintage copy of Bernard Clayton, Jr's "The Bread's of France and How to Make Them in Your Own Kitchen"

The Breads of France by Bernard Clayton, Jr

a bread baker has to do what a bread baker has to do! (Don't hate me Tanna.) Afterall before there was Peter Reinhart, Maggie Glazer, and Rose Levy Beranbaum, there was Bernard Clayton, Jr. showing us how to make artisan bread in our home ovens.

I'm also not sure how these other three books ended up going home with me.

Time Live Recipe spirals from Foods of the World

Honest. They just jumped in my bag. Really....

My trip to Myers of Keswick was very in and out. The store was swarming with people and the shop isn't that big. So, after a quick "look-see" to try and locate the so far elusive Nutella & Go, I headed out into the sunshine and a walk to 6th Ave to catch the "F" train to Coney Island to get off at Delancey/Essex and check out the Essex Street Market.

I have always wanted to wander through here but just haven't quite had a chance to. It reminded me a lot of the Chelsea Market but on the other side of town. I stopped in to Batista's and they didn't have my Nutella & Go yet but said that they were trying to source it as I was about the twentieth person in two weeks to ask for it.

As it was about 3pm, I knew I had to be quick about my last stop, Zabar's.

Grocery Mecca of NYC: Zabars

But I had that planned as making Zabar's my last stop would put me on the opposite side of Central Park and quick cab ride across the 79th St. Traverse to the Met. Besides, Zabar's was the place to pick up any last minute picnic items, like their Lake Superior smoked whitefish dip, some more cheese,

Zabars Smoked Whitefish Dip and Piave and English Farmhouse Cheese

and a big hunk of Sullivan Street hearty country sourdough bread.

Sullivan Street Bakery Rustic Loaf

Zabar's was the typical late Saturday afternoon zoo that it always is but the sample ladies were as nice as always shoving pieces of bread slathered with country pate and hunks of thin shaved prosciutto at you as you whizzed by basket over arm. No luck on the Nutella and Go but that is OK because I also tossed a box of Carrs crackers and a much needed bottle of water in my basket.

I walked out onto the sidewalk to hail a cab and head to my rendezvous on top of the MET but was waylaid by the smell of fresh baked bagels wafting across the street from H&H Bagels.

NYC Bagels from H&H

Well, just in case I ended up staying the night at one of my friends apartments, it would be good to have something for breakfast like half a dozen everything, sourdough, and egg bagels right?

As it was, after munching on some of the goodies I had bought during my Nutella and Go search and dropping the leftovers off at one of the apartments, we ended up having dinner dinner at Buceo 95 before hitting an endless string of bars and night spots. I did end up crashing on a friend's couch because I missed the 1:49AM "Strange Train" back to Connecticut and it was all good. Really. Greenwich Village is a great place to end up at 4:00AM.

Nicole informs us that Nutella and Go isn't yet available in the US but, when I embarked on my city wide search on Saturday morning, I assumed she meant they weren't available "out there" beyond the borders of NYC, the great city of small ethnic markets on every corner.

I was wrong and she was right but, after my visits to the food markets of the four corners of Manhattan, I have never been happier or more sated to admit I was wrong.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge: Anadama Bread Rules!

Peter Reinhart has been sniffing around my family recipe box.

I'm proving my loss of any semblance of sanity by participating along with my fellow Bread Baking Babes Tanna, Gorel, and Natashya in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge so wonderfully directed by Nicole of Pinch My Salt.

I've blogged about my deep, personal and intense love of Anadama bread before. I've even shared my Great Auntie Nora's family recipe for Anadama bread with you.

Andama Bread - My favorite bread from Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook

I've gushed about how I love the molasses sweetened taste of Anadama bread toasted and slathered with butter. How I love to take slightly staled slices and dip them in steaming clam chowder made with clams straight off the boat that morning.

So, imagine how I gleefully ripped into that first perfect loaf from the oven


I made using Peter Reinhart's fabulous recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

While his recipe calls to soak the corn meal overnight versus pouring boiling water over it like my family recipe instructs, the result is still the same: the texture of the cornmeal is preserved in the baked bread.

BBA_Anadama Slow Shot

Which, in this Anadama bread lovers opinion is what makes it such a fantastic toasting bread.

The only thing that makes it better?

Slather some orange marmalade on top and eat with slices of sharp Vermont cheddar cheese for after dinner dessert!

BBA_Anadama Slice

Breadchick Rating of BBA Recipe:
5 Loaves out of a possible 5
Five Loaves out of Five_blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bread Baking Babes Twist Things Around a Bit

BBB logo may 2009
Hi, you've reached the home of Breadchick.

I can't come to the blog right now because I'm a bit tied up in knots of luscious dough and yummy Italian Knot bread

Ilvas Knot Bread

courtesy of the Bread Baking Babes and our host kitchen, Ilva.

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, please email Ilva by May 30th with a link to your post or a picture of your bread and go visit the other Babes on the sidebar over there to see their twists, turns, and tucks.

Thanks and have a good day.



500 g /1,1 lb normal bread flour
5 g/0,17 oz fresh yeast
240 ml/1 cup water (I usually need a little more)

- Dissolve the yeast in a little water and quickly work the dough together.
- Put it in a high container, cover itwith a half closed lid or a kitchen towel and leave it for 15-24 hours.

0,500 g/1,1 lb biga
1 kg/ 2,2 lb 00 flour
450-550 ml/ 1,9-2,3 cup water, finger warm
30 g fresh yeast (this is what I found: 18 grams of fresh yeast = 7-10 grams of active dry yeast = about 4-6 grams of instant yeast, I don't dare trying to calculate it right now)
50 g/ 1,7 oz extra-virgin olive oil
60 g/ 2,1 oz lard
25 g/ 0,88 oz honey
25 g/ 0,88 oz salt

- Put the flour either in a big bowl or on a baking board, add the lard and mix it with your fingers until it has 'crumbled' and is completely mixed with the flour.
- Dissolve the yeast in little tepid water and add it to the flour.Mix as well as you can.
- Mix salt, olive oil and honey with the finger warm water and add it to the flour. Now work it it until it holds together and then add the biga.
- Work the dough until it is smooth and doesn't stick. I do it by hand and then it takes between 5-10 minutes.
- Put it into a big bowl, cover it with plastic film and leave to rise until it has doubled.
- Now take up the dough and divide it into smaller parts, about 100 g/3,5 oz each, and roll them it into long snakes (sorry can't remember the proper term) about 25 cm/9,8 in long but you can do them smaller if you want, no need the follow these indications religiously!
- To make the knots:

page 1
1. (top left) Roll out the dough into snakes and lay them out on a flat surface.
2. (middle right) Make a semi-circle with the dough snakes.
3. (bottom left) Twist the two end together like in the photo.

page 2
4. (top left) Bring the two ends towards the upper part of the circle.
5. (bottom left) Lift/fold the top part over the twisted part.
6. (right) Take the two end and join them together under the actual knot, this will make the knot part come out more and it hides the ends.

- Put the knots on baking sheets and leave to rise until they have doubled in size.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C/390°F) for 30-35 minutes. As always it is useful to check the bread and to use your common baking sense!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bread Baking Babes: Buddies Show Off Their Injera

This past month's bread the Babes "baked" was quite the challenge for us and our buddies but we had five six intrepid bakers join us for some Authentic Ethiopian Injera,

BBB logo April 2009

including a few from places where Teff was really hard to find!

First to show up with her perfect looking and from the sounds of it tasting Injera was Judy from Judy's Gross Eats.

Judy Injera

She loves Ethiopian food even her dog didn't like the "Tacoma" aroma wafting from the starter.

Next in was Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate with his gorgeous looking injera

Jude injera

and admits to an "addiction" to the Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago.

Long time buddy, Caitlin of Engineer Baker used all her powers of persuasion to get her boyfriend make a drive to the Madison, WI Whole Foods to get her Teff flour.

Caitlins injera

Even though he wasn't buying the fantastic Injera she made (or the toxic smell the starter gave off), she wrapped up her injera to take home and enjoy all by herself; which gives a new meaning to "taking your ball and going home."

Astrid, my fellow Weekend Cat Blogging food friend at Paulchen's Food Blog searched high and low in her home of Austria for teff flour. She finally found it online and had a "grand time" (sarcasm here children) trying to get the starter to do what it was suppose to but on the third try she had great success! Just look how lovely her injera looks.

astird's injera

I'll bet it tasted fantastic with her yam wot and lentils.

Madam Chow came to the party with the perfectly chewy balanced injera

MadamChows Injera

and showed us all how you can combine many cultures of food with this flat bread by scooping up lovely leftover Mr. Chow's Coq au Vin with pieces of injera. When you get right down to it, there really isn't much different between Doro Wat and Coq au Vin, other than a few spices.

GUESS WHAT! We really had SIX buddies this month! Jane from Jane of Many Trades has a tale of woe to share but don't fret too much, despite having to improvise with some flour and water at the last minute, she and her other culinary half (both she and her husband are trained cooks!) pulled off a meal of injera and wot.

Janes Injera

Thanks Jane for letting me know about your post.

Don't forget to join me and the other Babes this Wednesday for the bread we've all been working so hard on this month and to see how you can join us as a Bread Baking Buddy.

If I missed anyone's injera, drop me a note so I can add you to the round up and thanks for all your great efforts this month!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

They're Baaa-ck!

Look what I spied this afternoon in a grocery store...

Archway Dutch Cocoa Cookies Are Back!

Yup, that would be a package of Archway Cookies!!

Back in October 2008, the private equity firm that owned Salerno, Mother's Cookies and Archway shuttered the bakeries, filed for bankruptcy and fired all the folks that baked those cookies in the ubiquitous red and yellow package. By November, just when all of us were looking for our Mexican wedding cake, cherry nuget, and our pfeffernusse for the holidays, the last of the stock of the original soft supermarket cookies were gone.

In December a secret Santa came to town in the form of Lance Snacks, who not only bought the assets of Archway BUT also immediately rehired people who lost their jobs, gave them $1500 gift cards to get through the holidays, and started the ovens again.

The good folks at Lance said that getting production back up and running would be a long term process and that it may take them six months to get Archway back in all the stores. Now I know, making cookies are easy, but if you have to have a store bought cookie, there isn't a better cookie than Archway, Mothers, and Salerno. I'm glad to have them back.

I've always been a fan of Lance Snacks, having grown up with their peanut butter on cheese crackers in my lunch box, in the picnic basket and the hiking backpack. I always keep a pack or two in my travel bag as emergency rations. But their good will towards the workers of the bakeries affected by the bankruptcy and the slow restarting of the bakeries made me search out Lance's other snacks.

By the way, Lance was the only peanut butter cracker not affected by the recall of peanut butter. They don't outsource their peanuts and make their own peanut butter to keep quality control high.

In this day and age when we are bombarded by news of our food companies outsourcing their ingredients, having to recall large batches because of lax oversight on both the government and the companies, it is nice to see that at least one food company in the US has some morals.

Now on to some bread business.

I'll bet you think I've forgotten all about the Bread Baking Babes Buddies this month. I'll bet you think that I forgot that I was host kitchen and owe you all a round up of the fantastic Injera that you all made. I mean it has been almost a month!!

Never fear, I haven't forgotten about you all. Work was a bit crazy this week and now I'm out of town to deliver the Day of Bread Baking with Breadchick prize from last years Menu for Hope. The round up will be on Monday. Promise!!

Also, for those of you who had any doubt that I was absolutely out of mind and in serious need of therapy and a rubber room, this little news flash will cure you of your delusion...

I joined that crazy group of folks from all over the world who are baking their way through every recipe in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice with Nicole at Pinch My Salt. I baked the first bread and I'm telling you, if I had to pick one bread to live on for the rest of my life, this one just might be it. I'll be showing you what I mean on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, those wild and crazy gal pals of mine, the Babes, will be showing you what we've been up to this past month. I'm not giving anything away but if bread had a yoga pose, what we did this month might qualify.

Heck, since we are on a roll (get it, roll...he-he, bread humor), let's really knock you out by offering up an installment of "Ask Breadchick" next week!

So, get those questions in to me. I'll answer them on Friday before we all take off for the Memorial Day weekend and the official start of Summer. Now if only the weather would co-operate. It's going to be 40 where I am tonight. Brrrr.....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

What I Did With My Morels

No, not those morals but these morels.

Morels from Michigan

While Mama Breadchick was here, I used the morel mushrooms she brought to make one delicious pasta dish, herb chicken pasta with morels.

What I did with my Morels: Chicken Morel Pasta

It was quick, easy and oh so good. Less than twenty minutes from start to finish not including letting the chicken breast marinate overnight. I can tell you it made enough leftovers that both Mom and I had excellent lunches the next day.

I had half the office standing outside my office wondering what the incredible smell was...

Chicken Morel Pasta in the Pan

Herb Chicken Pasta with Morels

2 6oz chicken breasts, pounded thin and sliced into 1 1/2" stips
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
3 sprigs rosemary, stripped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup morel mushrooms, cleaned and halved (check them to make sure you have no false morels too!)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pasta water
2 cups cooked long pasta, drained (don't forget to reserve 1/4 cup pasta water)
1/4 cup finely grated Parm cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parm cheese

Combine first six ingredients in a sealed plastic bag and let sit in fridge overnight.

In large deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat until shimmering, add mushrooms and saute for 1 minute, turn down heat to medium low, add garlic and saute for another 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

Turn heat back up to medium, add marinated chicken strips. Cook until chicken is just done. Remove from pan. Deglaze pan with chicken stock and pasta water and add back in morels and chicken breast.

Add in cooked pasta and toss until coated with sauce. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup grated Parm.

Place in pasta bowls and sprinkle with grated Parm cheese.

Serve with warm crusty bread and butter

It's been a really long time since I participated in Ruth's Presto Pasta Night

presto pasta nights

but this was so good, I just have to submit it to this week's host, Patsy at Family, Friends, & Food for the weekly pasta round up.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: Mama Breadchick Comes for a Visit

We're hosting Weekend Cat Blogging for Mother's Day weekend here at The Sour Dough.

I get pretty excited when Mama Breadchick comes to stay because Mom makes my couch do a magic trick and it becomes a low bed I can hop on and take over the middle of;

LB on Center of the made up futon

just like I do with Mom's high bed in her bedroom, because I am King of All Furniture With Pillows!

Mama Breadchick and I have been spending lots of days together while Mom is at work. We sit in the front room reading, doing counted cross stitch where I help Mama Breadchick keep track of all the colored string by pouncing on it to keep it from escaping, and of course taking afternoon naps together on the magic couch.

LB sleeping on bed/couch

Mama Breadchick even knows that I like a good game of "hand snake".

LB and Mom "fighting"

She isn't as fast as Mom is though, so I get more opportunities to gnaw on Mama Breadchick's fingers.

Pops Breadchick didn't come to visit this time because someone had to stay home to watch after the two stupid dogs that Mama Breadchick and Pops Breadchick have. But he sure misses her because he sent her this fantastic bouquet of flowers to tell her how much he misses her and to wish her happy Mother's Day.

Mom's Mother's Day Flowers from My Dad

Mom and Mama Breadchick are heading into the city tonight to catch Angela Landsbury and Rupert Everett in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. But, first they are having dinner at the Bryant Park Grill. I hope they bring me back a Kitty Bag!

If you would like to participate in Weekend Cat Blogging, leave us a comment and a link to your post about WCB. I'll be doing a round up on Monday after Mom takes Mama Breadchick to the airport to fly home.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to wish your Mama a happy Mother's Day if you live in the US.

Monday May 11 Weekend Cat Blogging Round-Up:

Mom took Mama Breadchick to the airport today. It sure is quite around the house now.

Mama Breadchick's flight back home to Northern Michigan was delayed for a few hours so Mom and Mama Breadchick went to a sandwich shop Mom knows about in the Marine Terminal at LaGuardia.

The Marine Terminal is where the Pan Am Clipper Overnight flights left during the 30's and 40's and the terminal is all art deco polished glass with incredible art work. The shuttles for Delta fly in and out of there but even you don't have a flight from that terminal or are just visiting NYC, you may want to make a trip to see the beautiful building. Unlike the old Pan Am terminal at JFK that Jet Blue promised they were going to us but now aren't, it is nice to see the Marine Terminal is still in use as originally planned.

We had quite a few cats stop by to say "hi" to Mama Breadchick this weekend.

Jules at Judi's Mind Over Matter celebrated Mother's Day by sitting in Mom's lap while Mom worked. I like to do that too!

Luna was just a chatty catty all weekend at CatSynth! We love to hear her lovely voice. Bet she does great duets on the synths in the house.

Our French friend Melle Mina had a lazy weekend in the garden laying on yard furniture and soaking up the last of the spring sunshine.

Mom's good foodie friend at Paulchen's Food Blog had her funny Salome write a post about Moms and playing in the herb pot. Mom doesn't like me to get into her herbs so she keeps them outside during the nice weather. I'm jealous Salome, who is a pretty girl cat, gets to play in her Mom's herbs.

Another of Mom's good friends, Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums had her cat Fridolin show us his god poses and remind us all that we kitties were once worshiped. I'm not sure about the "once" part because I'm pretty sure I'm still worshiped as are all my WCB friends.

It was a lazy day to lie stretched out on the floor at the House of the (Mostly) Black Cats over the weekend.

The grande dame kitty, Scrappycat, gives every woman good grooming tips for the Mother's Day weekend over at Sidewalk Shoes.

Thanks for visiting everyone! I always enjoy hosting WCB because Mom let's me say anything I want to, mostly. We'll be hosting again in a few weekends but don't forget to check out the other hosts over the next three weeks.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Don't Hate Me Because I Have...

A big container of fresh, picked yesterday Northern Michigan morels.

Morels from Michigan

My dad and his brother always find baskets of them. Yes, I said baskets. Free. That is if you know where to find them and I'm not telling. My dad sent them with my mom for me to use in the next day or two.

I see lightly sauted in butter morels with a splash of white wine and garlic in our future.

I love May in Michigan.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ah, Breakfast for Dinner

And it was good for me too!

Tonight, after getting the apartment in order for my mom's visit that starts tomorrow, I cleaned out the fridge of odds and ends. Somehow, without even planning I ended up with a low fat, low carb, high fiber, turkey Italian sausage fritatta wrap for dinner.

Low fat and carb frittata

It was delicious. How did I do that?!

Breakfast for Dinner Frittata

1/2 cup Eggbeaters or egg substitute
1 link turkey Italian sausage
1/3 cup shredded low fat cheese
1 low carb, high fiber whole wheat sandwich wrap
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
dash salt
dash pepper

Remove the sausage from the casing, break up in large chunks and cook in an eight inch non stick skillet. Remove from pan, and drain on paper towel. Wipe out pan of any residue grease, pour in egg substitute and add back in cooked sausage on medium low heat. Sprinkle spices on top and cook, lifting cooking fritatta to let liquid under until very firm. Flip over and sprinkle cheese on top and cook until cheese is melting.

Place fritatta on top of sandwich wrap, roll up and slice in half. Serve with granny smith apple slices and seltzer water.

Calories: 335, Carbs: 9 grams, Fiber: 7 grams

Friday, May 01, 2009

Calling All Bread Baking Buddies: Extending the Injera!

BBB logo April 2009

I've received a lot of great emails from quite a few of you asking about how to find teff flour so you can make injera and be a Bread Baking Buddy with the Babes.


Because so many of you have just received or will be receiving your teff in the next few days and then you need five or seven days to get your starter going, we are going to extend the posting date for you to get me links to buddy posts to May 13th.

We can't wait to see your Ethiopian feasts, so if you know where you can get some teff but didn't think you had time, start your starter and invite your friends over for a good time next weekend!

You can find the recipe for the injera here and recipes for food to go with your injera here.