Taking Comfort with Chocolate and Caramel

summary: Π Day; chocolate caramel tart; yet more praise for back issues of SAVEUR; going a little stir-crazy;

And a back issue of SAVEUR magazine comes through again!

chocolate caramel pie

Today is Pi Day!! And because we’re still in the “Grey Zone, we decided we needed major comfort. It is now exactly one year from the day of my first (of too many) “cancelled due to pandemic” dress rehearsal and concert….

From the days when SAVEUR Magazine was still an exciting magazine to read:

      The front of Marlow & Sons consists of an assemblage of display cases and shelves stocked with fresh baked goods, artisanal soda pop and potato chips, and culinary curios. Baguettes poke out from a chipped enameled-metal bin labeled BREAD. A chalkboard advertising the day’s specials hangs next to a pegboard holding antique knives. Separated from the shop by a wood-paneled doorway, the dining room is a sort of cross between a cabin in Alaska and a Parisian bistro. Wall sconces cast a soft yellow light over wood benches and mismatched tables and chairs, and oysters on the half shell glisten on ice behind a bar at one end of the room.
      Many of the customers huddle over plates of house-made charcuterie and pâté, cheese, and olives, but every time I visit, which is often, I direct my attention to the specials board. The last time I was there, it listed a flat irons steak with herb butter; crostini of black-eyed pea purée, marinated radicchio, and golden raisins; black bass over clams, chickpeas, escarole, and chorizo; and a chocolate caramel tart sprinkled with seas salt. It is honestly curated homemade fare, and always delicious.
-Todd Coleman, SAVEUR Magazine No.119, “Restaurants that Matter: No9 Marlow & Sons”, April 2009, p.84

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Oh boy! We have another new toy!

summary: taking inspiration from TV; passatelli?! …how NOT to use up old bread; you lose some – you win some; a potato ricer isn’t just for potatoes; how much do they want for gadgets to make a ‘cucina povera’ dish??; best palak ever!; colour zones explained – sort of; that’s right: still staying at home;

Since the province decreed on Boxing Day that we must stay at home, except to get groceries, take physically distanced exercise, and go to medical appointments, we have been reading a lot and watching TV a lot. And, because eating is our life, we have been eating a lot too. (I think I found the weight that one of our friends lost last summer….)

new toy: ricer

We have another new toy! Here’s why we suddenly needed it:

     Monteveglio is a tiny village on top of a mountain roughly 12 miles west of Bologna […] There are two main attractions: the pieve, or rural church […], and our main destination, a small restaurant/hotel called Trattoria del Borgo. […]
     I walk the cobblestone streets, trying to see past the facades that obscure private, shaded back gardens but can catch only glimpses through half-open wooden gates, one or two ancient bicycles just beyond the entrance. The view of the valley is stunning and uniquely Italian. These lands have been cultivated for thousands of years, and nothing looks wild or out of place. The light is ebbing with a big-screen glow, and it is time for my cooking lesson. […]
     [C]ucina povera […] combines a style of cooking that is authentic, local and from the land. Other common culinary terms are cucina espressa and cucina immediata — which also describe passatelli, the quick homemade pasta dish we are about to make: a mixture of breadcrumbs, eggs and grated cheese, passed through a potato ricer-like passatelli maker into boiling water and served with chicken broth. […]
     [Trattoria del Borgo’s owner, Paolo] Parmeggiani has three bowls prepared, one filled with breadcrumbs, one with eggs, and the other with finely grated Parmesan. (Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in Emilia-Romagna and finds its way into almost every dish.) I ask about the recipe and learn that one uses six handfuls each of breadcrumbs and cheese, plus eggs as binder. […] [I] learn that one uses six handfuls each of breadcrumbs and cheese, plus eggs as binder.
     He combines the mixture by hand, which takes no more than two minutes, until he has a soft dough, which he places into a metal passatelli maker. He extrudes the dough over boiling water, cutting it into short lengths with a knife, and cooks it for just a few minutes, sim- ilar to spaetzle. […]
     Passatelli is served in a bowl with chicken broth and, if you are in Emilia-Romagna in the fall, copious shavings of modestly priced white truffles (which, at the outset of the season, are a slightly disappointing mix of potato and truffle). It is one of the best dishes of my life and also the fastest.
     That’s it. Cucina espressa, as well as povera — one more reminder that the best food in the world is both simple and local.
– Christopher Kimball, Milk Street | Cucina Povera: A Cooking Lesson in Monteveglio

While toasted bread crumbs are fabulous, we’re always looking for new ways to use up heels of bread. This sounded wonderful!

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Photo-less not-Friday: what did we do before plastic was invented??

summary: we’re shirking our responsibilities; reflections; still staying at home; reading, reading, reading, reading; bread cookbooks galore; why do we need all that plastic wrap? …an entry for Photo-less Fridays;

I’ve always read a lot. In fact, one of the things I heard most often as a child was, Are you up there reading again? Get down here now to [fill in the blank with] a.) practice b.) set the table c.) cut the grass d.) take out the garbage e.) etc. etc. But these past weeks and weeks and weeks that started last 13 March, all that reading practice as a child has really paid off: I’ve read novels, non-fiction, memoires, short stories, magazine articles, history books, and bread cookbooks cover to cover.

Now, as we are at the beginning month number twelve of Staying at Home, I am about half way through “Bread Illustrated” and, while most of the book so far gives excellent instructions, I keep finding myself gasping at how many times they talk about the need to use plastic.

Cover the dough on the counter with plastic wrap […] Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature […] Cover loosely with greased plastic
– editors at America’s Test Kitchen, Bread Illustrated

(Please don’t get me started on the fact that the ATK editors claim a heavy-duty stand mixer is necessary for kneading bread, because “kneading dough by hand can be messy [ and] takes up to 25 minutes — and some well-developed forearm muscles — to knead dough fully by hand:stomp: :stomp: )

I’ve learned a lot from all this reading. But I cannot believe how many of the authors – many of them renowned bread bakers – advocate the use of plastic. Often prodigal use of plastic. :stomp: :stomp: (continue reading )

Stamp! Stamp! Stamp! (BBB February 2021)

go directly to the recipe

let's keep baking! summary: an overly elaborate example of verbosity (how do you spell ‘blue pencil’?); recipe for Naan (wild yeast) with Bread Stamp, scissors, wooden skewers, fondue forks, cookie cutters, cake onion combs; still staying at home… coming up on a full year; lots of reading, including “Samarkand” by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, and “A Blessing of Bread” by Maggie Glezer; rabbits have been very busy, but they are not very good at hiding their holes; fun choosing which recipe to use; we love this style of bread; information about Bread Baking Babes;

нон дар нондону, калдаш дар осмон [non dar nondonu, kaldaş dar osmon] (The bread is in the basket, the key is in heaven.)
– Tajik saying

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) Baker’s Dozen Anniversary: Nan with Bread Stamp

Uyghur Bread

This is our 13th anniversary! Can you believe it?

Because some people are strange about the number 13 (there is a house in our neigbhourhood that is number 15 – directly next door to the west is 19 and the houses directly to the eastare 11a and 11! How confusing it must be for taxi drivers and delivery people….)

So. (heeheheee – I LOVE starting and ending a sentence with “so”) Let’s avoid that number 13; this is our “baker’s dozen” anniversary. (I was quite proud of myself when I suddenly thought of this.)

Our fearless leader, Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups), chose the bread we would make because, like me, she read “Samarkand” by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, and like me, she felt compelled to get bread stamps to make Uzbek Uyghur-style bread, or “Non”. (continue reading )

Toasting in the New Year (BBBuddies January 2021)

summary: Toasted Oats bread a hit with almost everyone; Two (that’s 2!!) BBBuddies – correction: make that 3; January 2021 Bread Baking Buddies; BBBabes’ Toasted Oats Bread gallery

edit 2 February 2021: Correction!! There are THREE (that’s 3!) January 2021 BBBuddies! :-) :-) :-)

Bread Baking Buddies (BBB): Toasted Oats Bread

Well. The good news is that T agreed that the flavour of the bread is fine, and that if we slice the bread thinly, it will make good toast. And I like the bread – toasted or not….
-me, blog from OUR kitchen | Bread Baking Babes Toast the New Year – with Toasted Oats, that is….

BBBuddies January 2021 After the slightly cool reception of this bread from half the human inhabitants of our household (we didn’t let the furry black fiend try it so don’t know what he thinks), I was very pleased to learn from the other BBBabes that the bread was a hit with almost everyone. (continue reading )