Donuts, Snownuts, and Pizza(nuts?)

Sometimes, you just gotta behave like children.

Sometimes that means gawking ecstatically at the barely there dusting of snow on the ground when you wake up in the morning.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Baked “Donuts”

Sometimes behaving like a kid means impulsively deciding to make the first recipe that crosses your feed that day, even though you have brunch plans, and even though you already have a ton of leftovers to use up, and even though… In this case, that recipe was one for baked buttermilk vanilla donuts, sent to me by Ginger Beer. Recipe here.

And then running off for Sunday brunch with a visiting friend (thanks again, Ben) smack in the middle of making said donuts. In my haste to scamper out the door into the very last of the snowfall, I barely finished setting the dough to rise.

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After baking the donuts (and holes, of course) as the recipe called for, and after glazing them with a lovely vanilla glaze I threw together, we discovered that baked donuts, well… aren’t really donuts.

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So we fried them, too. And re-glazed them. Matt helped.

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In the end, we ended up with still-not-quite-donuts, touched with “caramelized glaze” from the re-fry.

The moral of this story: donuts are a fried food.

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Pizza

Maybe behaving like children means inviting friends over to watch the Simpson’s Burning Man episode and eat pizza. Or maybe it’s insisting on making not one, not two, not even three, but alas, FOUR mini pizzas for only four people total. FOUR. Matt just rolled his eyes. But what can I say– I had four crusts, and four pizza ideas, so, here we are.

I’ve made a few different doughs for pizza (and I recommend SK’s really simple pizza dough) but tonight I used Clarity’s secret recipe, so I’ll have to ask her if I can share it. 😉

The best thing about pizza night (especially when you make FOUR) is getting to use up little bits of odds and ends you have lying around. This works especially well because most homemade pizza is thin crust, and therefore best with a relatively sparse scattering of toppings. (Note: slice things as thinly as possible. It helps a lot.)

Tonights flavors include:

Leftover buttermilk paprika chicken with Poblano peppers, mozzarella, and tomato sauce.

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Artichoke, goat cheese, red onion, and rosemary pizza with cilantro pesto.

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Pancetta, Pecorino Romano, parsley, green onions, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and tomato sauce.

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And, not pictured yet, the same leftover chicken with red bell peppers, red onions, cilantro pesto, parsley, and mozzarella.

Guests are here, and my 5 year old attention span has run out. Till soon!

BAKE OR DEATH

Another Rampage: Butternut Squash Galette, Pear Tart, Pickled Cabbage Salad, and Homemade Harissa

I swear, I should be sponsored by Smitten Kitchen, I make her recipes with such frequency.

Pickled Cabbage Salad

Today, we were just getting ready to walk out the door to the local produce market, and I happened to notice the tempting photos of the newest entry for pickled cabbage salad. Having enjoyed my first pickling endeavor so much (the jalapenos are amazing!) and noting that we had everything on hand except a head of green cabbage, I added that to the grocery list and came home excited to try it out.

As Deb of Smitten Kitchen pointed out, what better dish to cut the overly indulgent butter-and-cream cuisine of November?

So I chopped up some green and red cabbage and some red bell pepper, enjoying the luxury of a functional mandoline and the beauty of crispy colorful veggie tendrils, looking forward to a dish that will only get better with time.

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Plus, the remnants of these colorful veggies gave me a few more bits to add to the veggie broth I’ve been saving odds and ends for. I mentioned homemade chicken broth recently, but Alyssa and Jason had suggested that we extend our brothy concoctions to veggies as well, and it appealed to my love for using every last bit. So this has been simmering on the stove all day, too.

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Pear Almond Tart

Have you ever made a tart before? I hadn’t, until today. I’m still not sure if I have or not, but time will tell. Meanwhile, check out this amazing pear tart recipe from (you guessed it) Smitten Kitchen. See that lovely picture? Whether or not mine ends up to be, in fact, a tart, it will NOT look that lovely.

Making the crust.

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Simmering the pears in sugar.

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Truth be told, Matt’s the crust-maker in this kitchen. Pies are very much his division of labor, as shown by the amazing pie crusts he made last Thanksgiving. If you were one of the 40 or so people who attended our Thanksgiving last year, you remember them… maybe. There were about as many bottles of wine as people present, so perhaps the odds of you remembering them are about even.

When, halfway through making the crust and exasperated by the strangeness of it, I reminded him of his crust-making duties, Matt protested that tart crust and pie crust are very different things. To which I responded, “You know enough about them to know that, therefore you know enough to come help me figure this out.”

Which he did. Because he is wonderful. 

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Harissa

Meanwhile (there’s actually a lot of meanwhile when I’m in the kitchen, because as I mentioned, I tend to organize things so I’ve got something to do while I wait for things to rise or chill or bake or what have you), I decided to throw together some homemade harissa based on a recipe from… well, you know.

The recipe was less particular about the types of peppers than I had expected, which allowed me to make excellent use of the wide array of (unidentified) dried peppers that I’ve been accumulating from various traveling friends over the years.

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The result? A jarful of spicy awesome. Lindsey, please don’t stick your pinky in this one! It’s hot, even for me.

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Butternut Squash Galette

Meanwhile meanwhile, one last SK recipe yielded the main course for dinner tonight. I’ve been wanting to try galettes ever since Cerrithwen’s galette parties way back when, but somehow haven’t gotten around to (read: was intimidated by) learning the crust. Which, as it turns out, I was somewhat justified in. Galette crust is tricky too. I thought I was a baker or something once I got good at all these different breads, but it has only just begun.

Peel and dice the butternut squash. See, there in the background! A tribute to my muse. ❤

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Slice the onions.

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Caramelize them.

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Shape the crust into a… well… something approximating a round shape.

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Fill it with the butternut squash, caramelized onions, cheese (I subbed ricotta for fontina, because I had it, and topped with parmesan).

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And enjoy! Which, after I toss together a quick green salad, I shall do.

BAKE OR DEATH

Orange Soy Glazed Salmon

Sometimes, you just want something quick and easy. Right?

In our kitchen, quick and easy means about 30 minutes or less from start to finish. OR quick and easy means scavenging leftovers. Which can be wonderful, too. We’ve been happily scavenging that slow cooked Mexican chicken soup I told you about here for several days now, and we just slurped the last of it down for lunch.

Neither of us felt like making anything time or effort consuming, but we had just picked up some fresh salmon, so during our mid-afternoon dinner discussions Matt reminded me of how amazingly I cooked the last soy glazed salmon we had. In our kitchen, and in our house at large, we make effective use of compliments to shift the burden of tasks back and forth. Maybe you know something about that, too? Result: I’m making dinner.

The “recipe” for this particular dish no longer lives in my trusty recipe binder, nor my Google Chrome bookmarks index, nor any of the other usual places I store recipes made and to-be-made. I know, because I looked for it, until I remembered that this recipe lives *in my mind*  now, having been inherited from my mother and long internalized. That’s because this recipe is THAT GOOD, it has become our go-to salmon recipe. About 90% of the salmon we cook is made this way. And while Matt has been bragging about his baked salmon with horseradish mayo (???) for over two years now, every time we get salmon he wants me to do it this way. I imagine that’s 60% because it’s just THAT GOOD, and 40% because it’s MY recipe, therefore I’M the one cooking. Either way.  Because this recipe lives *in my mind*,  I had to stop and think hard about measurements for ingredients. Most mind-recipes are measured by how much space a dry ingredient takes up in the palm of my hand, or other such approximations. Because, at heart, I am lazy.
So, dear reader, I measured out my palm-fulls and finger-pinches and so forth here. For you. With love. But I’ve decided now and henceforth to designate the “~” symbol for ingredient list bullet points, because this symbol screams “approximation”, and that’s likely what you’ll be getting. Enjoy!

Ingredients

~1 pound of fresh salmon

~1/2 cup of soy sauce

~1/4 cup of olive oil / other neutral oil

~1/4 cup of rice vinegar

~1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

~5 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped finely

~1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or about 1-2 Thai chiles / other medium spicy peppers– 1 jalapeno will do in a pinch, but it’s not my favorite)

~2 tablespoons brown sugar (or palm sugar, coconut sugar, or something along those lines– white sugar would work in a pinch but it’s not my preferred choice)

~Juice of 1 orange

~Zest from about 1/2 of that same orange

*hint* (Pandito taught me that the best way to zest is to use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer layer of skin, then chop the skin finely. It’s way easier, and way faster.)

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Directions

1) Combine soy sauce, olive oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, and juice from orange in a medium sized bowl. Whisk / stir to integrate.

2) Pour this marinade over salmon in a sealed Tupperware, plastic bag, or anything else reasonably airtight.

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Let sit for approximately 30 minutes, or however long it takes you to start some rice, maybe prep a salad

I opted for a quick toss of arugula, shredded red cabbage, and cucumber, because that’s what we had lying around. I’ll probably garnish with sesame seeds and use some miso ginger dressing I’ve got leftover from this lovely roasted vegetable dish.

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or saute some greens, and refill your glass of wine.

3) Heat a small amount of oil, maybe less than a tablespoon (I like coconut oil or grapeseed oil for searing meats on high heat, but other cooking oils work too, including olive oil) in a heavy pan (I love our cast iron) on high heat.

4) Once oil in skillet is hot (almost smoking), remove salmon from marinade, reserving marinade, and sear salmon four minutes on one side, then flip and sear three minutes on the other side.

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5) Remove salmon from pan and tent with foil to keep warm.

6) Discard ginger slices and pour reserved marinade into still hot pan, scraping up browned bits from the salmon. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes until sauce reduces to a sticky, glaze-like texture.

7) Serve salmon over rice (or not), liberally topped with the glaze, and sprinkled with orange zest.

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Pickled Jalapenos; Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup; and Chicken Broth

I hope that you all had a lovely week, and that you all made it out to vote this Tuesday!

I got to serve as a poll watcher out here in Chicago, standing by at two voting locations to help ensure that election laws were followed so that people were able to exercise this important Constitutional right. It was a long (13 hour) freezing day, and at the end of it all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and watch the results… until I saw the results. Bleh. Better luck next time, Democrats!

It’s been a busy week for me, so I haven’t had the chance to share the tasty things happening in our kitchen. But today I got to catch my breath, so I decided to pickle some jalapenos and share with you the recipe behind the wonderful simmering brothy smells in our kitchen.

Pickled Jalapenos

The idea came up when Nick and KY were in town not too long ago, and we made a trip to Small Bar, one of the two closest bars to our house, for some pulled pork nachos and sour ales. The nachos, which were wonderful, featured pickled jalapenos that left me licking my fingers.

The sidewalk in front of Small Bar features this. Awesome.

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Matt and Nick representing our Burning Man / Gate colors on the walk home.

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I’m sure everyone you know is into pickling things right now. The dream of the 1890s is alive, and all that. I haven’t quite scrambled onto the pickling bandwagon yet, but I figured I’d make jalapenos my gateway drug.

Gathering inspiration from David LebovitzI sliced up a handful of jalapenos, carrots, red onion, and another unknown red pepper I found in the fridge. These were added to a simmering pot of half white vinegar and half water, seasoned with bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, sugar, and garlic.

And here it is! My first jar of pickled anything.

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Most likely we’ll eat these quickly, so I didn’t bother with “canning” them properly. That’s another bandwagon I haven’t made my way onto yet, but hopefully soon I’ll have the money and time to explore it.

Specifically, we’ll probably eat these with the slow cooked Mexican chicken soup that’s wafting through our kitchen right now.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Do you have a slow cooker? If you do, like me you probably LOVE IT, and look for excuses to use it. If you don’t, I strongly suggest adding that to your kitchen wish list. We got a fairly cheap, fairly basic one (this) when we moved in together about a year and a half ago, and it has been one of the most useful investments we’ve made. Throw in a bunch of meat (or veggies, or beans), add liquid and spices, and leave it on all day. You can smell your food slowly being transformed into tender, juicy whatever, and you don’t even have to think about it.

Enough of my proselytizing. I discovered this recipe from Against All Grain while we were doing a Whole 30 a while back (which turned into a Whole 14 or so, better luck next time!) and we’ve made it several times since. Not only is it incredibly easy, but it’s incredibly flavorful, and it’s incredibly likely that you have most of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry already.

And what you don’t have (besides the chicken, of course, because that’s basically the point of the recipe) you can improvise!

For example:

  • We’ve done the recipe with fresh tomatoes as called for, but it’s just as good (and more economical, especially as tomato season is over) with a 15 oz can of tomatoes.
  • We’ve used poblano peppers, jalapenos, and the unknown red pepper I referenced above. We also tried canned ancho chiles one time– be warned! NOT a good substitution. The ancho chile version tasted fine the first day, but the next day it had overpowered the rest of the soup. Because this soup only gets better and better on days two, three, and four (it probably keeps getting better longer than that, but we’ve never had any left beyond day four), I recommend using fresh peppers, not canned ones.
  • I imagine this would be just as good with any bone-in chicken cuts you have available. The bones are what transform the water into delicious broth, so boneless cuts probably wouldn’t do as good of a job. HOWEVER, if you have chicken broth (especially homemade) on hand but no bone-in chicken cuts, I imagine that using broth and boneless chicken cuts would still yield a pretty decent soup. More on homemade broth below.
  • The first time I made this I didn’t have coriander. I added a little bit of cayenne and a little more cumin, and while the coriander flavor does add a wonderful depth to the finished soup, it was just fine.  (To be honest, I always add a little more cumin to recipes calling for cumin. 1 teaspoon for an entire soup? Hmm. I think I use about a tablespoon. The same is true for garlic. Any recipe that calls for ONE clove of garlic is suspect.)

Bottom line: Awesome, easy, versatile chicken soup.

Not exactly photogenic, but still awesome.

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Chicken Broth 

Really, anything broth. If you roast / braise / slow cook any cuts of meat with bone, you can probably make broth. And it’s worth it.

Do you have a big pot? A sort of big pot? A pot big enough to fit the bones/tendons/organs/fat/other parts that you don’t want to eat? You can make broth.

We make broth with chicken carcasses, duck carcasses, cornish game hen carcasses, pork shoulder bones, shrimp shells, lobster shells, whatever. And it goes a little something like this:

1) Take carcass/bones/organs/fat/other parts and add to large pot.

2) Add water to the pot to cover the stuff you just added.

3) Put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil.

4) Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for hours. Days, preferably. We always simmer our broth at LEAST overnight.

5) Once the broth smells (and tastes! you can taste it!) rich and wonderful, strain the liquid and throw out all the solids.

6) Save the liquids either in your fridge (for use within the week), or in your freezer (for long term use). We usually wait for the liquids to cool enough to be poured into a freezer bag and freeze them that way for months. Don’t forget to label what the broth is! I believe someone recently suggested freezing broth in an ice cube tray, so you can easily thaw small portions for addition to soups, pastas, or other dishes.

That’s all for today. No baked goods this time. I am baking another batch of the bagels to bring for Matt’s dad this evening– we’ve been invited to sportsball– but you already know about those, so that’s not exciting.

Till soon,

BAKE OR DEATH!

A Cozy Halloween Baking Rampage (Bagels, Potato Focaccia, and Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder)

HOLY CRAP! It’s snowing! Big fat chunky flakes, just a little bit, just barely, and nowhere near to sticking. But it’s snowing….

Can you see the flakes? No? Well, they’re there. I promise.

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and… now it’s done. A brief blip of winter intruding upon our chilly fall Friday.

Well, it’s still cold as hell, and I’ve got nothing to do today except answer emails and fill our house with warm, tasty smells. So here’s what I’m up to:

Bagels.

I made a half recipe earlier this week to try them out, and they were a hit (read: devoured), so today I’m prepping a full recipe of them for brunch tomorrow morning. 🙂

I used a Food52 recipe, available here.  It’s way simpler than I thought bagel-making would be. Just throw together some basic ingredients, leave them in the fridge for a few hours, shape the bagels, leave them in the fridge overnight, boil them for about a minute and a half, then bake for 8 minutes or so.

Focaccia.

Halfway through starting the bagels, I realized that we had some Russet potatoes that were starting to look a little shabby. So I decided to pull out this Potato Rosemary Focaccia recipe and make some potato rosemary focaccia while I’m at it.

Mise en place. My favorite phrase that I never pronounce correctly. 

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Until very recently, all of my baking was done by hand. 100% by hand. Until last year I didn’t even own a mixing bowl, much less an electric mixer. A whisk was high tech equipment for me.

But this fall when we moved into the new place, I got myself a late birthday present.

It’s a Kitchenaid standing mixer, complete with a dough hook! Sexy.

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So now I look for excuses to play with my new toy. I have previously beaten and kneaded this focaccia recipe by hand, and it came out wonderfully, but today I decided to let my mixer knead it for me. The dough is so smooth! I’m excited to see if there’s any difference in the outcome of the focaccia.

Pork Shoulder.

So now the bagels are rising in the fridge, the focaccia is rising on a stool in the kitchen, but what should I do while I wait for all that rising?

This is an interesting wrinkle with me and baking–  as many of you know, I’m not exactly a patient person. Which means that often, when I’ve set one baked good to rise, I start looking for other things to do (read: cook/bake) while I wait. And THIS is why I have a problem, and THIS is why I’m sending you people baked goods.

Anyway. We’ve been planning on roasting a pork shoulder, but I hadn’t decided on a recipe yet. I turned to my trusty food blog porn in search of a pork shoulder recipe that would just explode with fall and warmth. I’m a little bummed that we’re not doing anything particular for Halloween, so I’m trying to make our kitchen as festive as possible.

I stumbled across this recipe for Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onion and Apple Confit from Food52, and knew it was the one. Except that I wanted to slow cook the pork even slower than the recipe called for.

I started by browning the pork shoulder in my cast iron for about 6 minutes each side.

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While that was going, I prepped the onions and apples

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and the garlic and thyme,

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saving myself dishes by staging the apples, garlic, and thyme all in the same prep bowl, since they would be added at the same time.

By this time the pork was browned and aromatic

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so I removed it from the pan, poured off some of the fat (but not all, because that would be a damn shame) to save for other uses, and added the onions to caramelize

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which took about 18 minutes. The picture is at about 10 minutes in, right before I snuck off for a cigarette break in the freezing cold.

I deglazed the pan with some chicken broth (I don’t have Calvados, and I probably never will think to stock Calvados, until such time as I can afford a home bar– it would have been fine to use apple juice or cider here instead, by the way) and stirred in the apples, thyme, and garlic for about a minute.

Up till this point, I  was following the recipe as written. (Mostly. I’ll talk more about my strange relationship with recipes another day.) But instead of throwing this all into the oven, I opted to use our much-used and much-loved slow cooker

Ping, my cat, wishes you a happy Halloween.

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and that will be simmering slowly on low until, oh, tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate it into our late brunch.

By the time I finished this part, the focaccia was done with its rise, and I was back to the baking.

BAKE OR DEATH!

Update: The finished potato rosemary focaccia. I got so excited to try it that I had started cutting into it before I remembered to take a picture.

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Interview Marathon Week, and Some Bread (A Two-fer)

I have a problem.

Okay, okay. I’ve got a few. Maybe even several. But right now, in the first month of our new home in Chicago, broke and job hunting and with lots of time (and flour)

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baking is rapidly becoming a compulsion. To solve this problem, (“problem?” you ask. “What problem?”) I offered to send a few friends some fresh baked goods in the mail. So this morning, I woke up bright and early to get my bake on before my third? fourth? interview of the week.

The first batch of bread I decided on was my new favorite Russian black bread recipe, stolen from trusty smittenkitchen.com. Find the recipe here. In my haste to get everything done in time, I neglected to take any in-process photos, so here are the two loaves going into the oven. I’ll be sending them to my darlings Pandito and Snips, in Oakland and Sacramento respectively. Maybe Snips will even share some with Kiro. If he’s lucky.

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Next, I started a batch of my trusty and renowned challah, also stolen from smittenkitchen.com. Find the recipe here.

This was my first bread baking attempt, ever, and it has become a stand by in our house. After I’d made it a few times, Matt opined that we need never buy a loaf of bread again. I’ve been aspiring to prove him right ever since, and so far, I think I’ve been successful.

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I love this recipe in part because it doesn’t require an overnight rise.

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My friend Kai, another baking inspiration, was kind enough to show me how to do the challah braid. Her braid was so perfect, that I instantly resigned myself to make do with as sloppy of a braid as I could stand, just so as not to constantly disappoint myself when I failed to achieve her greatness.

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It’s really pretty simple, and once it has risen and baked, you can’t even tell that my braid was as amateur as a five year old’s.

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After the braid, just brush with some egg (beaten) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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Usually I just make one huge loaf, but since the loaf must fit into a medium sized box to be shipped off to Merry in Davis, California (who, similarly, may share with Muppet if he’s lucky), I decided to make two medium sized loaves instead.

Gotta run! I’m pulling the Russian black bread out of the oven any minute now, throwing in the challah, and then off to the post office.

BAKE OR DEATH!

Credit where credit’s due

First thing’s first: I’m a thief.

What I mean to say is, at this early stage of our blog, most (if not all) of our recipes are stolen from other food blogs. We’re just getting started, and we don’t yet have a lot of our own original work to share.

My former roommate (and baking inspiration) Cerrithwen used to call our shared food blog perusals “food porn”, and that term remains apt to this day. I spend a lot of time browsing various food blogs. A lot. A truly disproportionate amount of time, really, when you consider how busy my life usually is. This browsing usually results in me looking up from my phone / computer periodically and exclaiming things like “salted caramel bread pudding?!” to which Matt’s response is usually “uh, YES!” and then I’m off to the kitchen to make sure we have all ingredients needed to create whatever recipe I just got excited about. And then I cook/bake it, and then I post pictures of it, and then you all get excited about it too, and so on, and so forth.

So, let me begin this blog by giving credit to the primary sources I pull from. This is an off-the-top-of-my-head list, and it’s relevant as of October 2014. I’ll try to update favorite blog / site links as time goes by.

  • Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/), I don’t know what I’d do without you. This blog has been one of my primary sources of baking inspiration; every time I get a new idea for something to bake, I start by checking this site. If there’s nothing like what I’m craving (rare), I reluctantly go elsewhere.
  • Epicurious. (http://www.epicurious.com/) While not a “food blog” per se, this has been a favorite site of mine for some time. I appreciate the peer review process, and I appreciate the effective searching functions (“I’d like to cook pork tenderloin, and I want it to involve honey and rosemary, and it’s fall right now, and I want to roast it…” “Okay, here’s 16 options, sortable by highest peer rated.” DONE!)
  • Food 52. (https://food52.com/) A recent food blog-ish acquisition, this website is full of seasonal and timely suggestions that help get the inspiration flowing.
  • Against All Grain (http://againstallgrain.com/)
  • 101 Cookbooks (http://www.101cookbooks.com/)
  • Many more.