Monday, August 31, 2009

What is a HOT OVEN?

Of course, every cook would have a different definition of the various temperatures used in cooking. There were no standard temperatures in cookbooks and anyone transmitting a recipe to someone else they cannot transmit the experience needed to make it successful.

Before temperature gauges or even ovens, the cookies were baked last in the day, the oven, slowing or cooling at the end of the baking day. Knowing an oven's temperature could just come from experience but often, one would thrust an arm into the oven and count the seconds before it became too difficult to keep it there. The number of seconds would give an idea of the temperature.

Here is a table which gives a range for the temperatures in old recipes.

Common Temperatures and Conversions
Temperature Notes Fahrenheit Celsius

Very cool oven 225°-250° 107°-121°
Cool oven 275°-300° 135°-149°
Very moderate oven 325° 163°
Moderate oven 350°-375° 177°-191°
Moderately hot oven 400° 205°
Hot oven 425°-450° 218°-233°
Very hot oven 475° 246°

Tarting Up Your Bread

My partner John likes heavily flavored breads. This runs rather contrary to my history. Anadama was as far from plain white bread as I got in my childhood or since I have been making my own bread. However, I was sitting here a few minutes ago with a big slice of bread that I made last night, toasted and slathered with butter. I realized how wonderful it was. There were no real recipes for bread that was heavily herbed like he wanted, so I had to improvise. Here is the one I made and a few suggestions.

To a white bread recipe, similar to the Focaccia found in a post here(doubled)add:

4 teaspoons of sage
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of freshly cracked black pepper.

Add along with the liquids like a tea. This is wonderful when sliced, toasted and buttered. It could be a meal (as all of these could) with a few cold cuts and cheese. I think this would be perfect as a sandwich with sliced roast chicken or turkey or roasted vegetables. I don't think that people normally think of pork as a sandwich ingredient, but imagine this bread too, with sliced roast pork, or hot with gravy poured over it. Who needs stuffing?!

Maryanne Esposito made a bread with a tea of Fennel seeds and cracked black pepper that I have always loved. John is not a lover of Liquorice flavors so I do not do it often.

Grind up rosemary leaves and garlic together for a bread that would be wonderful with lamb and pork.

Use your home-made pesto in your bread; and remember there are a number of pestos you could use. Several are posted here.

Make your bread with finely minced bacon or sausage. Use a bit of the fat as well, but omit the other oils or butter from the recipe and add it when the recipe calls for the fat. Bacon and onion is a British combo that is hard to beat.

Minced hot chilies and cheddar cheese is a great combo. Lay thin slices of the cheese over the top of the loaf about ten minutes before it comes out of the oven.
Dried chili powder, cumin and oregano would be good as well.

Don't forget cheese. Any of these combos would be good with a hard grating cheese. Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, Manchego are all good choices, but finely grated Cheddar or Swiss would be OK as well, especially if you are rolling a layer in jellyroll fashion. The bacon with onion would be great with a good cheddar.
The starch of the bread will deaden any wimpy additions of cheese(or herbs for that matter), so make sure that whatever you use is good strong aged cheese that will stand up to the deadening effects of the bread.
Anything served cold needs to be over seasoned or cheesed(if that is a word), but toasting will help to revive the flavor. A cup or more in a couple of loaves should be enough, but use more if the cheese is mild.

John gave me a large mortar and pestle for Christmas. We do not use a pepper grinder now. We simply crack or grind the pepper in the mortar and leave it in a shallow dish to use. Try to make only enough for that day or two at the outside. This is also a good way to make the spice powders from whole spices like cinnamon or cloves.
Grind the herbs you wish to use for the bread in the mortar and pestle or whiz it up with a food processor. The mortar is very satisfying though. The physical activity, the pounding and grinding makes you feel much calmer afterward.
Make your herbs into a paste with onion and garlic to add to the water of your recipe, or just use dried onion and garlic from the supermarket.
If you like, reserve a little of the herbs(not the garlic or onion) to roll your dough into before the last rising. You can brush the top of the loaves with egg white and sprinkle the herb powder on top.
Alternatively, roll your once risen dough into a large rectangle, drizzle the surface with oil(Olive of course)and sprinkle a layer of herbs etc. Then, roll it all up jellyroll style and place in your pan to rise before baking.
Whole Wheat and Anadama breads are a bit sweet; and may not be as good with many of these combinations.
Rye bread is great with onion and Orange peel grated into it. Try the citrus peel of your choice in other breads as well.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bill's Oatmeal Raisin Bread

I have never been very good at simple things. Oatmeal escapes me in the normal context. I disapprove of instant. There is nothing like taking the most inexpensive of foods and making it outrageously expensive so that someone does not have to cook it for twelve to fifteen minutes.
I do my best by taking the oatmeal and cooking it about 10 minutes instead of the recommended 8 with about 25% more water.(Of course this varies by brand, but I cannot get John to stop buying the cheapest Market Basket brand.) Then I add a half cup of milk and continue to cook it for another 2 to 4 minutes till the oatmeal is very soft. I add raisins and cinnamon along with the oats, and plenty of both. I finish up with a generous amount of brown sugar at the end.
Well now that we have that done...


Some of this is a little redundant, but the idea is to use up the leftovers of oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups cooked cooled oatmeal with the raisins, sugar and cinnamon added.
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup water
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons shortening or butter
1 Tablespoon salt
7+- cups unbleached flour
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon yeast

Put the raisins in the milk and scald(heat till bubbles form at the edge of the milk but not to the boil).

Add the shortening to the milk to melt.

Add the oatmeal, one tablespoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar to the milk mixture and stir to blend.

Allow to cool to high body temperature.

Heat the cup of water to 100 degrees or so.(high body temp.)

Add the yeast and the white sugar and stir to dissolve.

Allow the yeast to prove about fifteen minutes.

Combine all the wet ingredients together.

Add flour at the rate of one cup at a time, blending well after the first two till quite smooth.

Add the salt and stir.

Add flour a cup at a time till a soft dough forms. Do not add any more dough than is absolutely necessary to handle it without your arm being pulled into it and disappearing completely.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead. Lift the dough off the board holding it by one end. Slap the other end of the dough down hard on the surface then fold the rest over the top. Pick it up and repeat at least a dozen times.(use a bench scraper or a spatula wo srape it up if it sticks.) The dough will dry and become smoother. Continue kneading for a total of ten minutes.

Form a ball and drop into a greased bowl and turn over to coat with the grease.

Allow to rise covered with a damp cloth till at least doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough in half after punching it down gently.

Roll or pat it into a long rectangle on a lightly floured surface.

Spread the rectangle with a generous layer of brown sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon. Leave one inch of the narrow side un-coated with the sugar.

Starting with the un-coated edge roll the rectangle up like a jelly roll, pinching the final edge together with the main roll to seal.

Place the roll into a greased loaf pan with the seam side down.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Cover both pans with with a cotton or linen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot till doubled in size.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until it is removed from the pan and sounds hollow when hit on the bottom with a knuckle.

Cool on a wire rack.

If a soft top crust is desired, brush with melted butter when warm.

This is great for toast, but is just as good with a slathering of butter or cream cheese. This could just as easily be topped with cream cheese frosting. Imagine it made into French Toast or Bread Pudding.


They look a little like toasty brassieres don't they.
The reason I like calzones is that it is cheap to make bread dough, and you can extend a meager amount of fillings, which can include leftovers of most kinds.  A very cheap meal.  These are caramelized onions, meatballs, spinach, tomato and cheese.
Well...I just searched my own site and did not find a post that I thought was there.  I know it is there somewhere, but I do not have the energy to search for it today.  So, Since I am in the middle of a batch of them, I thought I would just snap a picture and post it. 
The first thing you do is go to my Pizza recipe.  Yes, you can search that!  After the rise, divide the dough into 6 balls and place on the counter in a small mound of flour.
Pull out one ball of dough along with some of the flour.  Turn it over in the flour a couple of times and pat into a flat disk.  Roll it out with a wine bottle or rolling pin, in a dusting of the flour from your mound.  Stretch occasionally as needed, but finish the chore with the pin so the dough is even.
If the dough keeps springing back on you to a smaller size, cover the whole thing in plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it all rest for ten minutes. 
  When the desired diameter is reached, rub a half teaspoon of oil on the dough where the tomato sauce will be sitting only.  Do not oil the edges where you will be sealing it up!
Place your fillings on half of the dough circle, and draw the other half over the top and stretch till it fits onto the other half's edge.  Seal the edges immediately by just pressing down on it.  Then starting  at the corner of the Calzone, roll a bit of the edge towards the center, and a bit toward the direction you will be continuing to.  Take the next half inch of dough along the edge and roll that in a bit farther along.  Press down hard to seal each twist.  I try to put a rope edge on by doing this.  But just folding and sealing any way you can will do.
You can brush the top with egg wash if you like a shiny brown surface and even dust it with sesame seeds.
I bake them on an oiled or cooking sprayed, foil lined cookie sheet, but you may cook them on a pizza stone as well.  Be sure to preheat the stone.  See pizza directions.
Cut a slit in the top. 

Bake at 375 till golden.
Serve a little sauce on the side if you like.  The sponge in the corner is also
 edible after about a week of sponging up Italian food! 
Can you tell I am not a pro photographer?

Put whatever you damned well please in it. 
I do not know if they cook long enough to count on raw meat, just precook the meats. 

Sausage, Egg, onions, peppers and cheese?
Shaved or sliced steak, peppers, onions cheese and mushrooms?(Cheese steak!)
Sauce, meatballs, onions cheese?
Lamb, Feta, spinach, black olives, onions?
Pepperoni, cheese and sauce?
Stew leftovers?
Thanksgiving leftovers?
MMMMMmmmmm...Braised chopped meat of short ribs in sauce with a great cheese?
Pulled Pork!!  Add carrots and onions too.
You name it.

Try sweet fillings as well!  Dust with sugar before baking.

White Rools not mispelled from the Burrills after 1919

I do not know if the spelling is intentional or not. The Burrills and Hutchinsons were an educated lot, so I guess it is intentional.

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
Butter the size of a walnut
3 cups of flour
3 heaping teaspoons baking powder

No method

I would mix the dry and mix the wet separately. Then combine 1/3 of the dry at a time.

Graham Muffins from Burrill Family after 1919

2 cups graham flour
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
2 1/2 cups sour milk(buttermilk)
1 teaspoon soda

No method

One cup of graham flour is approximately equivalent to 84 g (~2/3 cup) white flour, 15 g (slightly less than 1/3 cup) wheat bran, and 2.5 g (1.5 teaspoons) wheat germ. The bran and wheat germ should be ground, but coarsely.

Corn Cake 1 from the Burrill Family after 1919

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 dessert spoon butter
1 cup sweet milk
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup corn meal
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of soda, sifted with the flour and C of T

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease an 8 inch square pan.
Melt butter in large skillet.
Remove from heat and stir in sugar.
Quickly add egg and beat until well blended.
Stir milk into mixture in pan.
Stir in cornmeal, flour mixture, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Corn Cake 2 Burrill Family after 1919

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 dessert spoon of butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup sour milk(buttermilk will do)
3/4 cup corn meal
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon of soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease an 8 inch square pan.
Melt butter in large skillet.
Remove from heat and stir in sugar.
Quickly add egg and beat until well blended.
Combine milk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan.
Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Burrill Family Brown Bread after 1919

1 cup sour milk
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup molasses
3 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups graham flour(common to use half Rye flour and half wheat flour)
2 cups Corn meal

Pour into three small mold(such as empty food cans)
Steam for three hours

Generic instructions from other sources:

In a medium bowl, combine milk(or buttermilk) and molasses. Stir into premixed dry ingredients/flour mixture only until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn into prepared cans(greased), filling evenly. Cover cans tightly with 2 layers of foil; tie with string. Place a rack in a large kettle. Place cans on rack. Place kettle over low heat. Add boiling water until halfway up cans. Cover; bring water to a gentle boil. Steam bread 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Add more boiling water during steaming, if necessary. Carefully remove bread from cans. Cool on racks at least 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 3 small loaves.


Burrill family Custard Corn Cake

2 eggs
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup sweet milk
1 cup sour milk
1 1/2 Indian Meal
1/2 cup flour

Stir all together.

Pour the batter into a heated spider containing 2 tablespoons of melter butter

Pour in one cup of sweet milk in the middle without stirring

Bake in a hot oven for 1/2 hour.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grammie's Boston Brown Bread

There is no method for several of these recipes, so I will have to research possible methods or you can try to come up with it yourself. Either way, this is from the early 1900s. This is hand written.

1 1/2 cups graham flour
1 cup corn meal
2/3 cup of molasses
2 1/3 cups sweet milk
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt

Steam for three hours.

Grammie's brown bread number 2 from Mrs. N.

This might be hard to recreate unless you have a source for RYE MEAL.

2 cups rye meal
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt

Mix with milk or water.

That is all there is. Who could Mrs. N be?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hot Dog Rolls and Hamburger Rolls

If you have read any of my posts in the cookbook, you will already have discovered that I love cheap white bread.  In the movie "The Golden Door", the new immigrants on Ellis Island are given a meal.  The bread is the soft white bread that is still common in the US.  They say to each other that it is like eating a cloud after looking at is skeptically.  (This film is a MUST SEE for members of any immigrant family.)
I cannot help it.  I cannot defend it.  But I do love it.  Of course, I love all the dense and flavorful breads that are available all over the world.  English Balloon Loaves and Sweet Meal Bread from England.  Fried English Muffins, French Baguettes and Batards, any Italian bread, Syrian Bread, and the unleavened bread from Turkey.  It is stretched paper thin in a circle, then spread with curds(cottage cheese might do.) and wild herbs.  A second layer of bread is sandwiched on top and sealed around the edges.  Then they fry the bread on a seasoned, nearly dry cast iron surface.  The two halves puff up into a ball with the curds inside...sublime and so exotic.

If you love bread and baking, you must find(IF POSSIBLE) "English Bread and Yeast Cookery"  by Elizabeth is the very best.

 How can I inspire confidence in my taste with this obvious weakness for white bread. 
I cannot eat a Hot Dog without a white roll.  I love buttered bread with garlicky lentils sandwiched inside. God help me, I can even stomach fried baloney sandwiches with plenty of yellow mustard as long as there is cheap white bread.
So, I was caught without rolls today.  I was going to have the rest of a package of Hot Dogs with some grilled peppers and onions, finished with Salsa.  But there was no white bread or rolls.
The answer is quite simple.  You could either make a batter bread, or simply over raise the bread as they obviously do in our bakeries to look like more than there really is.
I used my favorite quick bread recipe which is found elsewhere in the blog as Pizza Dough.  I will repeat it here to save searching.

Warm 1 cup of water to high Baby Formula temperature.  Pour it into a large bowl with a tablespoon of white sugar to dissolve.  I do not like the flavor of honey in my bread if it is to be used for savory purposes. 

Sift over it 1 Tablespoon of granulated yeast and stir to dissolve.

Allow to sit in a warm place to proof. 

In about 15 minutes, this should produce a beige foam on top of the water.

Add about a tablespoon of Olive Oil, other oil or melted butter.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Stir in and whisk 1 1/2 cups of all purpose(UNBLEACHED) white flour.  Beat till smooth.

Add an additional cup a bit at a time till the batter has lost much of its tackiness and gathers up around the spoon you stir it with.   Use as little as possible!

Turn out onto a floured  counter and knead.  Add flour till it is just losing its "tack".  Again, use as little as possible to make it handle-able.  Knead till you are exhausted! 

Oil a large bowl and drop the well kneaded dough into the bottom and turn once till it it coated with the oil.

Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place to rise.

In about an hour(or less) it will have doubled in size.  Gently deflate the dough and remove from the bowl.  Knead a few times till smooth again.

Cut off Lime/Lemon sized pieces of dough.  Pull any thin ends to the center of the ball, pull the front surface to the eventual bottom of the roll and pinch hard to seal into balls.  Roll each piece between your palms till it forms a log that will just fit into the bottom of a loaf pan that has been lightly greased or sprayed.

About six will fit into a pan.  This will make 12 rolls.

The trick here is to allow the rolls to rise to triple their size.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Turn out onto a cooling rack.  Cool till just warm and using a serrated bread knife, cut a slit along the length of the rolls, almost to the bottom to hold the Hot Dogs.

Similarly made dough can be rolled out to about half an inch thick on a lightly floured board.  Cut out with a large cookie cutter or a knife  to hamburger size or a little smaller.  It will mostly grow up, but it will also grow in diameter  Place the disks on a greased cookie sheet with some room between them.  Cover with a flour coated tea towel(just powder the cloth with flour and rub the flour into it, or dust the tops of the disks with a sifter of flour).  Gather up the rest of the dough and knead to form any loaf you wish to bake alongside the others.

Again, allow them to rise to triple in thickness.  Bake at 375 degrees for about fifteen minutes or less then check them to see if they are done.  This might be the perfect opportunity to steal one to eat, even if a bit doughy, slathered with butter and jam!

Turn out onto a rack.  Cool completely and cut in half horizontally with a serrated bread knife. Saw, rather than pressing with the knife so it does not crush the bread.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Variations on Marinara from Jennie deFina

My cousin Jennie and I talked a bit about Marinara. 
To make Marinara, one would saute onions and garlic cloves in olive oil, just until soft.  Add crushed tomatoes(not cubed or sauce, but crushed) Jennie prefers Pastene, and I agree that you can get a great tomato from them.  Her alternative is Redpack.  Jennie has avoided adding tomato paste to the sauce for a long time, thinking it adds a bitterness to it.  Instead she just adds a small can of tomato sauce.     Simmer the sauce for at least twenty minutes and up to 2 hours.  Add 1 bay leaf and oregano(Jennie cautions against too much) and plenty of basil, salt and pepper to taste.
Using lots of extra onion, she also adds Lobster to this sauce...Very nice idea!
Thanks Jennie, for the ideas and for the evening.

Alberta's Milk and Water Bread

Dissolve one yeast cake(remember those?) in 1/2 cup of warm water(Warm like a baby's bottle and perhaps a bit warmer)

Scald 1 cup of milk (we did not know there was anything but whole milk at the time) Heat the milk till it is just about to boil then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To 1 cup of boiling water, add:

1 Tablespoon of lard or other shortening
1 Tablespoon of butter
2 Tablespoons of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of salt
the scalded milk

Add the yeast if it has begun to foam a bit.

In stages, stir and then knead in:

5 cups of flour for rolls
1 cup more for loaf...

Note from Bill:

Now this is an interesting thing. The more flour you add to a bread dough the less tender it will be. You should add flour till the dough is just about to lose it's stickiness. Bread is by feel. The dough, once it is ready, should have a soft silky feel to it. The kneading stretches the dough over and over to produce glutens. As the gluten is formed, the dough loses it's stickiness. The finished dough should be soft and yielding to the touch, very little resistance when you handle it.

Bill's method:

Start developing gluten at the beginning. Add some of the flour to the liquids, (typically a third of it) and stir it smooth. Now stir it by stretching it out of the bowl and forming long waterfalls of dough as it falls back into the bowl. The longer you do this the more gluten will form. Once you have added most of the flour(stop a cup short of the recipe to evaluate.)the dough should be a bit sticky. It should not be making an effort to pull you into the bowl with it, but it should come up with you when you touch your hand to it a bit. Turn the dough out onto the UNFLOURED counter. Pick it up by one side, gathering the rest of it up with a bench scraper or spatula. You should be holding it by one end, and the bulk of the dough hanging from it. Slap the free end of the dough on the counter, and with the end in your hand(S) drape the remaining dough forward over the leading edge. Put your hands on top and push the mass into itself and forward. Gather up the dough again and repeat this for all the time you need to get it into a soft silky mass. You may add dustings of flour if it is impossible to handle a bit at a time till it is used up. Do not add more than is necessary. Work for as long as you can stand it up to 20 minutes, eventually just kneading as the dough develops and gets more resistant to stretching.
In this recipe, Alberta is adding more flour if you plan to make a loaf. The dough will be much stiffer when you do this, but I have to assume she is counting on this to be denser to slice.

Put the dough into a greased bowl covered with a sheet of plastic or a clean tea towel in a warm place(see notes on other breads for alternatives)and allow it to double in bulk.
Punch down the dough.
form the dough into rolls or loaves and place in greased pans or sheets to rise again.
You may top with seeds, zest, spices or herbs by brushing the dough with egg wash first.

Bake loaves at 350 degrees F for about an hour depending on the size of your loaves.
Bake rolls for as little as 12 minutes if they are separate and small on sheets, or about 25 minutes to 45 minutes in a pan and crowded together. You can tell if bread is done by popping it out of the pan and rapping the bottom with your knuckle. There will be a hollow sound when it is done.

Try adding spices, herbs or minced onion, etc. into the liquids for flavors in the bread.

Uncle Ed Bearce's Griddlecakes from Alberta

Who was Uncle Ed Bearce? Can't tell you. I suspect it was an uncle of Alberta's, but I will get back to you. If you were working in the woods or anywhere in the cold in Northern Maine, you certainly had to be well armed for the cold and heavy work with plenty of Carbohydrates. I suspect that the people living in the southeastern part of Maine around Livermore Falls, Litchfield and Lewiston had plenty of outside work to do so take a cue from them and add griddlecakes to your morning fare. I like to add cinnamon to mine. Of course everyone knows about berries and other fruit added to this, or perhaps a syrup made with fruit like the beginnings of jelly or jam. How about a nice shot of Ginger, and pour the batter over thin sliced pears already browning in butter on the griddle. Mom made these rarely. I was of course not working outside much as a child in beautiful downtown Houlton, but I am sure a similar recipe appeared often when My father was working outside and my brother and sister were walking those many miles(uphill both ways in the snow) to the one room school they attended in Littleton. Mom used to pour a small amount into the pan in the form of my initial in reverse, then a second or two later pour the rest of the batter over it so the initial would show up in the final cake. I remember her doing swans etc. I bet that was a rare occurrence when she was feeding all those venturing out into the cold.

Sift together:

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of soda
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of salt


1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons of melted shortening
1 cup of milk.
(Add a bit more milk as you work if it gets thick.)

Stir only to barely mix. Do not try to get this extremely smooth. Some people shake this in a big jar or Tupperware container, use a bit, then put it in the refrigerator to use over a period of days. I do not know about you, but these do not last long around here.

Pour some of the batter on a fairly hot griddle coated with butter. You could do this right on top of the wood stove too. When the edges dry a bit and the bubbles come through the batter, it is time to turn it over. The first one is often a mess if you are using a squeaky clean pan. A well seasoned cast iron pan or griddle would not really need much if any butter, because you just wiped it out after use instead of washing it. This worked out well especially when you were doing this every morning.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pizza/ Foccaccia

This is not John's best picture, but he surely likes that pizza. This is at a cafeteria in Rome on Via Barbuino near Piazza Del Popolo

My mother made the worst pizza ever! At least that is what a food critic might say. But I thought and still do to this day, that it tasted better than anything I ever ate. She usually did pizza when the bread dough failed in those days before yeast packets. She did it on a big stainless steel cookie sheet and it never rose correctly, it was always underdone and floppy to pick up...Boy it was great...I suppose that I liked it the same way that some people like raw cookie dough.
Over the years, I developed my own recipe, and it almost always comes out OK. If I take my time, it can be wonderful. If I am in a rush and need to get it on the table in an hour and a quarter, I think it is quite serviceable.
The same dough is used for the two breads, but are handled a bit differently at the end.
When using pepperoni, I always go to the Deli department to get the dried up and most wrinkled up old pepperoni possible. It is much more intense and drier.
Only use tomatoes without calcium chloride in the can.

Preheat the oven to 400F or 450 if using a stone. Preheat the stone for at least 20 min.  Stones can be replaced by Terracotta tiles or an old piece of granite  counter top that fits the over.  Just do not get the granite hot and them put water on it in any quantity.  The crystalline structure of the stone might crack in the heat shock.

1 Cup warm water (baby food warm)
1 T sugar
1 T dry yeast or 1 packet*
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.

Heat the water and place in a large bowl.
Dissolve the sugar in the water and sprinkle with yeast.
Stir gently to dissolve.
Allow to sit in a warm place for 15 min. or so till the yeast foams
Add the oil and salt.  It is better to add the salt along with the last cup of flour, but not as usual.
Stir in 1 cup of flour.
Mix with spoon or better, with a whisk till very smooth.
Add flour, stirring with a spoon bit by bit till it cannot be mixed with a spoon anymore, and turn out onto a floured board or counter.
Knead, incorporating flour as you go till a smooth dough that is just a bit sticky is formed and knead for about five minutes. Place in a covered greased bowl to rise in a warm spot** till doubled.
Punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured board. Pat the dough into a circle with a slight depression in the middle. Stretch and press the dough till it is stretched to about 14 inches with a raised rim. Or, you may divide the dough to make thinner multiple pizzas.
Lay on a greased pizza pan, cookie sheet, or on a wooden peel for baking on a pizza stone. The peel should be spread with corn meal or flour as a lubricant to prevent sticking. (In Italy, you cannot make bread or pizza dough and call it truly bread or pizza if you have used corn meal. By definition, bread is made with flour not corn, so you cannot mix like that. It is even stricter in France.)
At this point the dough can be baked briefly and cooled to be frozen for later use.
Dimple the surface and drizzle with olive oil.

Spread with crushed canned tomato or finely chopped fresh tomato.  You may wish to drain the chopped tomato in a strainer for a few minutes so it is a bit drier.
Some people like a rather sweet sauce.  Take a can of tomato paste.  Add all the herbs and salt and pepper to the paste, and thin the whole thing with water till the consistency is just a bit dryer than a liquid and a but softer than a syrup.  Figure that one out.  Perhaps 2 cups would be a safe measurement.  I guess it is a creamy consistency.
Add red pepper, garlic(minced) fresh or caramelized onions, peppers, cooked sausage, pepperoni(baked for a minute or two and drained of fat) and basil and oregano(my original blend was two parts oregano to one part basil, but I am enjoying all sorts of herbs on pizza now including sage or rosemary...use different combinations with various toppings or just fresh basil leaves or pesto) Salt and Pepper (with extra salt if there are lots of veggies as they tend to suck the salt flavor out of the finished pizza).
Cover with fresh or the harder Mozzarella (in slices grated or in cubes) and Parmesan(again, many combinations of cheeses can be used.)Slide the pizza onto the stone or the baking sheet onto the lower rack of the oven.
Bake til brown and bubbly on top and the bottom of the pizza is browned. You may lift the pizza out of it's pan or off the stone using a sheet pan or pizza peel and place it directly on the upper rack for a couple of minutes for a crisp crust.
Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

* Use less yeast if you can afford the time to raise the bread slowly. You can place the bread in the refrigerator over night if you use 1/4 of the yeast. This results in superior and slightly sour dough.
When I first started to do this recipe back in the seventies, I used the dough right out of the bowl only letting it rest for about 10 minutes.  It makes perfectly acceptable pizza.  However, with a little planning and a little patience, You will have a great pizza instead of a good one.

** A cool spot is great for fine texture and the overnight mentioned above even better, but this is a long time to plan for.

You may dimple the surface of the uncooked dough and spread a generous amount of oil on it. Minced garlic, rosemary, and Parmesan and on occasion some black olives or thinly sliced tomato or cherry tomato, make a great Focaccia. I also caramelize a couple of onions as a topping for this.
A very thick Focaccia can be made by simply turning the risen dough out onto the baking vehicle(very gently) and flattening it slightly to make a rather thick disk, then dimpling the surface and adding the toppings. It comes out more loaf-like that way and must be baked much longer at a reduced temperature.

I sometimes brush a little oil on the outer crust of my pizza and sprinkle with very coarse salt like a pretzel.  I saw a different way the other day, when Miguel, a talented cook from another in the chain of cafes I work in, did the pizza for the day.  He sprinkled the crust with herbs, garlic powder and bread crumbs before baking.

Toppings.  Many things will not cook through in the short cooking time that a pizza gets.  So, I generally thin slice peppers, onions, mushrooms, precooked sausage, pepperoni, chicken, zucchini, eggplant etc.  Thick pieces of all these might be better if roasted in the oven ahead of time.  Replace your tomato sauce with other things, like caponata, chili  con carne, stews etc.. Try Salsa and enchilada sauces etc..  You can puree white beans or Garbanzos with garlic and olive oil for a change.
 of pace.
Sicilian style pizza is often made with tomato paste instead of sauce.  Just paint it on with a pastry brush or spread it with the back of a spoon.  Just not too thick.  Usually this is with plain cheese, but it would be appropriate with anything you please.

Use plain mozzarella in the block or bag from the supermarket, or use the soft Mozzarella, Mozzarella di Bufala, Bocconcini, Provolone, Asiago, Blue, Cheddar, or any other melting cheeses you like, either plain or a mix of several...Blue cheese mixed with mozzarella and bacon with spinach and mushrooms!

Alberta's Blueberry Muffins

The Burrill family was headed by Richard O. Burrill. He was a Customs Officer for much of his working life. They were sent all over the border areas of Maine. They lived in Coburn Gore on the border with Quebec(Fred picked up a wicked French Canadian "accident" to use in jokes whenever he wanted). They were in near the Million Dollar View of Orient, Maine on the New Brunswick border, Limestone, near Loring Air Force Base and finally in Houlton. Having spent so much time in the Wilds of Maine, you can bet that Blueberries were regular fare when in season. I am amazed when I visit my sister in Lakeville, Maine at how many Blueberries there are there. Both high bush the size of hazelnuts along her lake shore and the smaller berries in the thickets. Where else would someone make great Blueberry Muffins and perhaps throw a few into the Griddlecakes found elsewhere in the site.

1/2 cup sugar
1/6 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup berries
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder

Method is missing on this recipe, but I used my Fanny Farmer method to try this out last night.

I used muffin cups for mine, so the pan was no problem. I would normally reserve about half a cup of flour and use it to coat the blueberries before mixing them into the batter. This recipe says specifically not to do that. Butter a muffin tin.
Mix together all the dry ingredients. Mix all the wet ingredients separately. Add the wet to the dry and mix only till everything is just moist. Do not try to make a smooth batter! Pour into cups about 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Torta or Timbale

I don't think I have done this in years and years. The last time was before I divorced. I took this to a party. There are endless varieties of Tortas in Italian cooking and in fact what I do here is probably not strictly a Torta. There is a sort of stuffed Pizza that is indigenous to areas south of Rome that would be very similar to this though thinner. If I find the name of it, I will certainly post it for you. Tortas can be made with all sorts of shells and a similar affair can be done without a shell at all, relying on the viscosity of the filling to hold the whole thing together. I love this version, but if I find a good recipe for pastry that is authentic to this sort of thing I will certainly add it on so you can experiment. If you have a pastry dough that does not have sugar in it, you might try it that way. I was reading that many of the traditional recipes that were done in the islands are slowly being standardized and named, for the benefit of the tourists. The problem is that the recipes done at home and in our grand parents' homes were very flexible. You certainly could not be frustrated by the fact that peas were not in season when trying something like this, you would just substitute broccoli, grated and drained zuccini, artichoke hearts or some other vegetable. I am doing this recipe with ground beef made into a meatball meat. What would stop you from taking all the ingredients in Chicken or Veal Piccatta and using those to create a filling along with all the veggies and pasta that you would normally serve. How about Saltimbocca? I just don't like the idea of veal or lamb, so I try to avoid it, but Chicken Saltimbocca could be imitated with ground chicken, mushrooms, Marsalla, butter, flour or crumbs, and a handful of sage. Use something like Fontina for the cheese. Be creative; they were.
Use my Pizza crust recipe found elsewhere in the site.

My Torta

I used one recipe of meatball mixture from Carolyn Cusolito found here in the site.
Make it ahead and make sure it is at room temperature.

Saute/caramelize one large onion. I don't think red onion would look good in this.
When it is translucent add a couple of mashed garlic cloves and a pint of whole grape tomatoes. Continue to cook till the onion colors and the tomatoes burst. You could use roasted tomato or even sun dried.. Set aside to cool.

Cook and cool your choice of greens(frozen or fresh) like spinach, arugula, chard or even savoy cabbage that has been shredded. A blend of two would be nice too. Drain and squeeze the greens dry. Set aside to cool.

Grate two carrots finely and saute in oil till tender but not soft. Add a cup of fresh or frozen peas and minced or mashed garlic half way through. Set aside to cool.

Cube or shred a pound of Mozzarella Cheese. Choose the variety and cost that you like. Substitute any easily melted cheese...You could easily double this amount if you like.

The one warning I can offer, is that you should think the combinations of filling ingredients through. Think about the blend of flavors that you would like together. If you had to put a traditional meal together, put stuffing ingredients together that you would like if you were just putting a plate on the table. Also, try not to use too many things that will be terribly dry. The bottom of the pan should not have a lot of moisture sitting in it. The crust will get soggy.

Oil, butter or spray a large Spring form pan.

Roll out 2/3 to 3/4 of the once risen bread dough, I would think you would want this to be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Like a fruit pie, line the pan with the dough. It should not go all the way to the top of the pan. Press it into the corners. Brush the inside lightly with olive oil. Make a large disk with half of the meat mixture or small meatballs. Cover the bottom of the pan with this. Make a layer with the onion mixture and add salt and pepper. Make a cheese layer(this could be a favorite Ricotta and egg mixture) Make a layer of the meat mixture again. Cover that with the carrot mixture(seasoned), then cheese and spinach. Dust it liberally with Parmesan, Pecorino Romano or other favorite grating cheese.

Roll out the remainder of the bread dough and cover the top. Try to pinch together the edges to seal, then cut a hole in the center. The pan should be about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for an hour to an hour and a half till a meat thermometer comes out at about 150 degrees. You may want to cover the torta with aluminum foil if the top is browning too fast. You want the meat to cook through. If you have used precooked meats like ham or bre-baked meatballs or Prociutto you can get away with a lower temp.

Allow the Torta to cool for about 20 minutes while you put a quick sauce, appropriate to the filling together. I just do a quick Marinara, though different combinations might warrant different sauces or none at all.

Un-mold the pan and slide the Torta off the pan base onto a serving platter. Cut in wedges to serve. This is great hot or cold. If you plan to serve it cold, you should over season it a bit.

How about a layer of hard boiled eggs showing the cut cross section in the middle when it is served. Go Crazy!

Peas, prociutto and mushrooms.
Bacon(pancetta), peas and mushrooms.
Cabbage, onions and Pork or ham.
Sausage, greens and roasted tomatoes.
Chicken, chestnut and sausage stuffing.
Roasted mixed veggies(zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers)that you have soaked in beaten egg, cheese and cream.
Peppers, scrambled eggs and sausage or pepperoni. Do you remember doing this combo for breakfast?

You could eliminate the bread crust and instead, line the pan with grilled Eggplant slices (cut the long way)overlapping and right over the top in a nice pattern.

Do the same with Zucchini slices.

Do an entire pasta meal with pasta, meats and sauce mixed together with cheese of your choice, and use that as your filling. You could also do this with beaten egg mixed in with cooled filling. The egg will bind the whole thing together in a firmer slice.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anadama bread

Uncle Phil was a great cook and the house was always filled with baked goods...Christmas would see pans of alcohol soaked cakes all over his counters and he would climb to the eaves of the house to get the baby pidgeons to cook in sauce. He and my mother were very competative and always argued in fun about the proper size of a meatball or how many meatballs could be made from a pound of hamburger in soup.

Preheat oven to 375F for rolls 450F for bread


2 cups hot water

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup molasses

2 T shortening

2 t salt

Bring to a boil and cook for several minutes.


dissolve one cake or packet of yeast in:

1/4 cup warm water.
allow the yeast to prove.

mix the yeast into the cornmeal mixture.

Add up to 6 cups of all purpose flour a cup at a time.

add only enough flour to make a slightly sticky dough. Allow to rest a few minutes then knead on a counter in a bit of flour till the dough is very smooth and elastic for up to 20 minutes.

put into greased bowl, covered, in a warm place to rise till doubled in bulk.(a better bread will result if you raise it over night in a cold place using less than half the yeast)

Punch down and shape into the desired shapes, coating them with butter or shortening as you go.

If making loaves: put into greased loaf pans. If making rolls: coat each roll with butter or shortening and arrange evenly in a 9x13 in. greased pan.

Allow to rise covered till again doubled in bulk in a warm place.

bake rolls at 375F till brown and the tapped bottom of the rolls sound hollow.

Loaves are baked for 10 minutes at 450F then at 325F for an additional 20 min.

again this bread browns well and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


The Italians had Crescia and Torta al Testo...My mother had Doughboys. When I say fried dough to people, they immediately think of going to the fairs and carnivals where they would stretch and flatten dough into big patties and drop it into hot oil or shortening. Then they would dust it with cinnamon and sugar. I would certainly not refuse one of those right now, but my waistline would not thank me. What I am talking about is what you did with bread that was not doing its thing. Either it did not rise at all, it rose perhaps weakly or perhaps you forgot about it and it over-rose. Also, you may have made bread and you could not get the wood burning stove going well. Perhaps you did not have time to get it up to temperature in time for a meal. If you were cooking in August and it was 98 degrees outside, you might not want to heat the kitchen up. The Italians make breads in a similar way, on heated stones or on griddles over coals. Sometimes they would coat the top of the dough with ash too. Depending upon the wood, you could impart distinctive flavors to the bread. Dough that was in good condition(rather than the failed dough from Mom) would be put into a cast iron pan to rise then baked after rising. You could then split the pizza-like disk in half horizontally, stuff it with braised greens, cheeses and cured meats, then return it to the oven to crisp(crunch really) and melt the cheese inside. All that is pretty good, but I prefer Mom's...big surprise. When the monkey ruined the dough, the water was too hot for the yeast or a cold draft hit the pan the dough was rising in, you had to use the dough. Mom just tore off orange sized pieces of dough, flatten and stretch it into an oval. This would be dropped into the cast iron "spider" that was greased with butter and fried till it puffed(When willing to do so) and browned. Then it was flipped to finish cooking on the other side. It was put into the oven to stay warm(if it was not immediately snatched by passing children or husband) till they were all done. It could be served with something like pea soup or lentils.
This is really an English Muffin! The only real difference is that the dough has less flour so it is more like a "batter" bread. You put metal rings into the hot butter, similar to cookie cutters(which you could easily use). Then you pour a quantity of the batter into the mold and fry it till it all firms enough to pop it out of the mold and flip it over to cook the other side.
If you have a passion for bread, you should search out: English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. It is out of print and difficult to find, but it is a wonderful bible for bread lovers. There is a revised edition which will be good, but if you can get the original it will be much better.