Jerry’s Halfway Cookies + 5 Holiday or Anyday Cookie Links

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Anne stared at her mother’s battered and torn recipes and wished she wasn’t dead because she didn’t feel like making halfway cookies, they were Tess’s specialty.  She missed Tess.  Death is inconvenient especially around the holidays, thought Anne.  She felt much more than inconvenience since Tess’s miserable, drawn-out death.  In fact, most days she wasn’t entirely sure how she functioned.  Her children saved her, kept her occupied with their schedules and needs.  Their never-ending stories, sentences that began with “and” starting at one pick up, continuing to the next drop off allowed Anne to feel engaged but mostly sad and hollow all at the same god damn time.  Anne could forget, though, when the day mercifully allowed it.

Sort of.  When her mind didn’t ache from all she pushed through over the last two years. Ya, she could forget if she willed herself.  She forgot about holding Tess’s hand as she struggled to breathe and feeding her spoonfuls of water.  Watching her son and her husband feed, Tess teaspoons of water was especially awful.  Changing her diaper wasn’t as bad as Anne expected because there was nothing left to expel.  Everything was shutting down, something they mention in the helpful reading material hospice had left on their way out the door while Anne held Tess’s hand and watched her slowly transition from this world to the next.

Telling the nurse not to offer Tess any more food as she may choke was especially heartbreaking for Anne.  It was just so final.  Decisions were made without fully understanding that, yes, Tess would soon be gone.  Administering morphine and lorazepam to Tess as she begged for help, tiny squirts from a plastic syringe dribbling down her tongue, into her throat, smaller than a pea and so painful for Tess to swallow made Anne want to vomit.  A grimace on her mother’s face after each swallow, followed by relief until Tess saw Anne wasn’t done, not yet.  More morphine.

“Please help me, please help me,” Tess whispered.  Anne felt small.  “I don’t know what to do,” Anne cried.  “Yes. you do,” Tess said.  Hadn’t it always been this way? Anne a mess and Tess calm and knowing.  She hated and loved her for it.

Anne watched the hospice nurse change her mother’s bandages. Every time they asked Anne if she wanted to leave the room.  Anne never left.  Cancer on her mother’s breast now like a crater on the surface of the moon, devouring Tess, reaching for her collarbone.  Additional tumors were growing, making their presence known in the form of little mushroom heads and excruciating pain.  The smell was gone now. 

So many indignities for such a beautiful, refined woman.

The hospice nurse called Anne at two in the morning to let her know her mother had passed but Anne knew when she left her mother to pick up the kids from school just hours prior, she would not see Tess alive again.  She hugged and kissed her; told her it was ok to let go now.  The words flowed easily from Anne’s mouth to Tess’s ear as if someone else was speaking for her.  

How could you tell her to let go, Anne?

Anne hours before, holding her mother’s cold hand, watching her chest rise, her mouth ajar, teeth exposed as if drawn by a caricature artist, lips dry, crusted, and colorless.  The breathing pattern had changed as mentioned in the handy death pamphlet.  Anne studied that pamphlet like she was getting a graduate degree in end of life care as if it would somehow predict when Tess would leave this world and maybe, if Anne were lucky, she could escape the tsunami of grief that was headed her way if she was prepared and organized. 

The joke’s on you, Anne. 

She harassed her sister via text with the latest bodily changes Tess was undergoing during the transition, every time asking herself if it was necessary to share so much dying with her angry and already grieving sister who lived two thousand miles away.  Maybe the next text would go to her brother who had removed himself from the situation just enough that he could put off the grief until one day when Tess was gone and the grief brought him to his knees. 

And then the call. 

Tears struggled to come.  Anne steadied herself, threw her messy hair into a ponytail, and put on her glasses. She felt her husband’s hand on her back like an anchor reminding her of all the life that was still waiting for her.  The hand felt heavy as if it was asking too much of her to keep going, to keep pushing through when she was bone tired and heart-broken.  Anne kissed him goodbye, relieved the weight was gone if only briefly.

Anne drove in silence to her mother’s house.  The land looks different at two in the morning.  Twisting and turning in unexpected formations, shadows throwing off perspective.  So much unexpected life!  Random cars on the highway.  Where are you headed? Did you just lose the love of your life too?  The serpentine road that took Anne to Tess’s house was full of nocturnal animals, shocked by the car’s headlights, watching Anne pass, pausing to acknowledge her existence in their world, seeming to pay homage to Tess, as if they knew a good soul had passed.

Anne pulled into the driveway.  Tess’s house looked so alive with nearly every light on as if letting anyone who passed know something was amiss.  She steadied herself, walked in, said hello to the old cat purring by his water bowl, and the night nurse sitting in the rocking chair.  Anne’s father stood before her in a t-shirt and pajama pants looking older than he had a week prior.  They hugged briefly before Anne went into Tess’s room.  Tess looked beautiful with the covers up around her shoulders and the pink rosary beads Anne had just given her lying across her chest.  The giant seventies lamp cast a warm glow on the entire room making Tess look as if she was just resting, certainly not dead.  Anne collapsed on her mother’s bed and held Tess, crying like a wounded animal.  Tess’s forehead was still warm but her cheek was cool, almost waxy.  Anne gently rubbed Tess’s hair and cheek just as Tess had done so many times when Anne was a child.  She put her head on her mother’s chest.  The weight of Anne’s head pushed the remaining air out of Tess’s lungs making a ghoulish, cinematic sound and yet Anne felt nothing but comfort resting against her mother.  The last of Tess’s breath exiting and Anne breathing in all she could, taking some of Tess with her.  Internalizing her.  She closed her eyes and may have slept. 

Anne remembers the hospice nurse arriving, removing her stethoscope, and checking for a heartbeat that no longer existed.  I’m sorry for your loss.  God those words feel empty tonight. 

Anne remembers falling asleep next to Tess listening to the sounds of her father weeping upstairs.

Let’s wait until morning to call the funeral home. 

Try to sleep. 

Ok, Dad. 

Anne woke a couple hours later to find Tess very cold and pale.  Mouth firmly open, one eye half parted.  She was gone.  There is a difference Anne now understood in acknowledging the love of your life will soon be gone and living with their absence. 

After months of no tears, the tears came and Anne worried they may never stop.

Anne watched the funeral home director and his assistant place Tess’s body into a black, sterile body bag.  The sound of the zipper so decisive.  A folksy blanket placed over the bag, over Tess, so it didn’t look quite so unnerving.  Tess was wheeled out to hearse and that was it. 

It was over now. 

Something Anne had wished for repeatedly.  Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  Anne drove home, stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee and thinking how funny it was to do something so ordinary when something so life-altering and extraordinary had just occurred.  

The months that followed Tess’s death were foggy.  Anne could barely remember the details of those initial days.  She slept and cried.  Ate when she felt like it and drank too much.  Spring turned into summer and then into fall.  The kids went back to school.  Her husband checked in daily, tending, as best he could, to her grief.  The days passed and Tess was still gone.  The saying life goes on is so horribly true and gut-wrenching when you lose someone you love more than yourself.  The reality of so much life continuing without Tess, some days, just too much to shoulder.

Today Anne’s house was quiet except for their old dog snoring and farting in the hallway.  Christmas had passed and Anne somehow managed to push through it all.  Expectations remained intact.  Expectations are worthless, Anne believed, something she learned shortly after her mother died.  Keep your expectations of other people low and you won’t be disappointed.  Anne’s new mantra, if you want to call it that, brought a sense of peace to her.  She could let go of the raw hurt she felt from those who had disappointed her.  Those who didn’t show up.  How great it felt to be free of everything unnecessary.  Is this what Tess felt now? It was a relief for Anne to rid herself of that weight because there was just too much to carry.  The grief had changed her but into what she was unsure.

Anne made the halfway cookies.  An Avett Brothers song repeated in her head like a tripped record.  Like a prayer.  “No hard feelings, Lord knows they haven’t done much good for anyone.”

 

Chocolate Half Way Cookies

Makes 24 bars

Recipe slightly adapted from Evelyn Hamilton, my grandmother

Ingredients:

1 cup or 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup of sugar

½ cup of brown sugar

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten with 2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 cups of all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 package of chocolate chips

Ingredients for meringue topping:

3 egg whites, beaten stiff

¾ cup brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 14×10 jelly roll pan and set aside.

Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a medium bowl.  Blend together using a whisk.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and the bottom once or twice.  Add the egg yolks (with the water), one at a time, until well blended.  Next, add the vanilla.  Beat for a few minutes until everything is blended.  Reduce the speed of your mixer and add the dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until everything is well combined.  Add the dough to the prepared pan.  Spread it evenly across the pan using your fingertips until the dough covers the entire pan.  Spread the chocolate chips evenly over the dough.  Press the chips into the dough gently.  Set aside.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the brown sugar.  Beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Spread the meringue across the prepared dough.  Bake until the meringue and cookie dough are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack completely before cutting.  Once cool, cut into squares and serve.  Halfway cookies are best the day they are made but taste damn good the next day as well.  Enjoy!  Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

5 Cookie Links

Indulge a bit this holiday season and make The Vanilla Bean Blog’s holiday cheesecake cookies.  Yum!

Fudgy brownie crinkle cookies- yes they exist and they look divine!  Head to Mike Bakes NYC for the recipe.

Oatmeal lace cookies are a holiday classic and a sure winner.  Head to Julie Banner for the recipe.

If you love red velvet cake, why not make red velvet cookies?  Food 52 has the recipe for you.

Six years ago, I made these Italian lemon ricotta cookies and they were a huge hit.  Check them out!

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches + 5 Ice Cream Sandwich Links

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Summer is holding on in New England despite the days inevitably growing shorter.  I’m grateful for the warm breeze and sunshine.  It will all change soon enough.  Tomorrow marks the first day of fall.  Fall feels like a time of reflection.  I am not quite ready to reflect on all the year, so far, has brought my way.  I have trouble letting go. For just a bit longer I will savor summer and eat an ice cream sandwich or two.   I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.  More stories and recipes to come soon.

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookie recipe adapted from Baker’s Royale

Vanilla ice cream recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Ingredients for ice cream:

1 cup whole milk

A good pinch of salt

¾ cup of sugar

3 teaspoons of vanilla

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

Directions:

First, pour the cream into a metal bowl set inside a larger bowl filled with ice water.  Set aside.

Using a medium saucepan, heat the milk, salt, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and just comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Using a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour a little of the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Add the egg yolks to the saucepan with the remaining milk.  Cook the custard over low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a heat-proof spatula until the custard thickens.  The custard is ready when it covers the back of a spoon or spatula.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the custard into the heavy cream.  Stir until cool to the touch.  Next, stir in the vanilla extract.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Churn the custard according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions.  Store in an air-tight container in your freezer.  This recipe makes 1 quart.  Enjoy!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Recipe adapted from Baker’s Royale

Ingredients for cookies:

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon of cinnamon for sugar/cinnamon mixture

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ginger

1 ¾ cups sugar, divided

½ cup of vegetable shortening

1 stick + 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Grab two baking sheets and cover with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Using a medium bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and 1 + ½ cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.  Add the eggs, one at a time until thoroughly combined.  Next, add the vanilla.  Reduce the speed to low and add dry ingredients.  Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Mix together 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and ¼ of sugar in a small bowl.

Using a cookie scoop, make round cookies balls.  Roll the dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated and place on a prepared baking sheet.  Space the cookies two inches apart.  Place the baking sheet in the fridge.  Allow the cookies to chill for 20 minutes before baking.

Bake cookies until lightly golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Cool on pan for two minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Store cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature until ready to make the ice cream sandwiches.

Ice cream sandwich assembly

Working quickly, add a rounded scoop of vanilla ice cream to one cookie.  Place another cookie on top.  Push down on the cookie top gently and evenly until the ice cream is evenly distributed.  Wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag, and freeze for 4 to 6 hours.  Create an assembly line to make this process go faster!  Enjoy!

5 Must Check Out Ice Cream Sandwich Links

The cherry season may be over but don’t let that stop you from making Brown Butter Blondie’s dark cherry ice cream sandwiches.  I love the combination of fruit and chocolate, especially in ice cream.  Yum!

Samoas are by far my favorite girl scout cookie.  In high school I could easily eat an entire box on my own then truly wonder why I had a bellyache.  Broma Baker’s recipe for samoas ice cream sandwich cookies makes me want to make myself sick all over again.  Check them out!

Coffee ice cream fans head to Zoe Bakes for her no-churn coffee ice cream sandwiches.  They look like the perfect treat to whip up this weekend!

Rum raisin ice cream reminds me of my grandmother.  She loved it.  Head to The Candid Appetite for an oatmeal rum raisin ice cream sandwich that is sure to turn any non-believer into a believer.

It is officially fall and time to embrace all things pumpkin and gingerbread.  Head to Canelle et Vanille for a pumpkin and gingerbread ice cream sandwich recipe that is sure to satisfy your pumpkin craving.

Peach Blueberry Streusel Pie + 5 End of Summer Pie Links

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Septemeber is a month of transitions.  We say goodbye to summer without fully realizing it’s gone.  An extra blanket suddenly becomes necessary.  Leaves slowly make their descent leaving pops of red, orange, and yellow on the sidewalk.  We move on once again to the next season with both hesitation and relief for a change.  A noticeable ache is present when summer transitions into fall, another reminder of time moving forward.

Soon we will turn to stews, chilis, lasagna, and hearty meals to warm our bones.  Slow cooker recipes will get us through the crazy school and workweek.  One day will melt into the next.  Before we allow for any of this to happen, lets pause and savor summer one last time.  My peach and blueberry streusel pie adapted from the cookbook Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski pays homage to the beauty of summer fruits.  I hope you enjoy it.  Happy Labor Day.

Peach Blueberry Streusel Pie

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski

Ingredients for Pie Crust:

2 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter, chilled

½ cup ice-cold water + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for filling:

2lbs ripe peaches, sliced

3 cups blueberries

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup tapioca starch

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

Ingredients for streusel:

2 cups fine yellow cornmeal

1 cup old fashion oats

2/3 cup light brown sugar

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

Directions for pie dough:

Using a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt.  Place sticks of butter in the middle of the bowl and coat with flour mixture.  Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into small cubes.  Cover each cube with flour, then using the bench scraper cut the cubes in half again.

Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut the butter while also turning the bowl with the other hand.  Continue to blend the butter and flour until the pieces are the size of peas.  Next, add the water/vinegar mix.  Using the bench scraper, scrape the dough from one side of the bowl to the other side until the liquid is absorbed.  Now, scoop up the mixture with your hands and press back down onto the whatever remains in the bowl.  Turn the bowl, scoop the mixture with your hands, press back down, and repeat.  Once all the flour at the bottom of the bowl is gone it is time to stop.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.  Using the bench scraper cut the dough in half.  Pat each dough ball into a two-inch disc.  Seal any broken edges.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

The pie dough will last in the refrigerator for a few days and in the freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in the refrigerator for one full day if frozen.

Next, blind bake!

Pre-heat the oven to 450F with the rack on the lowest level.  Remove pie dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough starting from the middle out, rotate 45 degrees and roll again.  Repeat this process until the circle of dough measures 9 inches.  Place dough in the pie pan, crimp as desired, and place the pie dough in the freezer.  Allow to freeze for 20 minutes.

Remove frozen pie crust and cover with aluminum foil.  Fill the crust with dried beans.  They should come all the way up to the crimps!  Place pie on baking sheet pan and place in oven.  Bake until the crimps are light golden brown, about 25-28 minutes.  Check for doneness by peeling back a bit of the foil.  Remove pie crust from oven and cool on a wire rack for 6 minutes before removing foil.  The pie is now ready to be filled!

Directions for filling and streusel topping:

Using a large bowl, add peaches, blueberries, ginger, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, and tapioca starch.  Mix well.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, oats, brown sugar, salt, and butter.  Combine with your fingers until it resembles wet sand.  Set aside or refrigerate in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Pie Time!

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Pour filling into blind-baked pie crust.  Sprinkle streusel topping all over the fruit, covering it completely.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place pie on baking sheet and place in the preheated oven.  Bake the pie for 60 to 90 minutes or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the streusel topping is a rich golden-brown color.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 4 to 6 hours.  Pie is ready to eat when it is at room temperature.  Serve alone or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

The leftover pie will keep at room temperature for 2 days.  Be sure to cover well with plastic wrap.

5 End of Summer Pie Links

Savor peach season and make Smitten Kitchen’s peach pie.

Looking for a gluten-free summer pie option?  Head to Joy the Baker for her gluten-free peach and blueberry pie recipe.

This pie by Vanilla Bean Blog combines summer and fall flavors in one delicious pie.  Curious?  Check it out!

If you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with head to The Awesome Green blog for a sweet and savory tomato pie recipe that will not disappoint!

Pumpkin-flavored everything season has started.  Embrace it and make Love and Olive Oil’s s’more pumpkin pie recipe!

Farro Salad with Endive, Blueberries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese + 5 Summer Salad Links

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If you are looking for another go-to summer salad, this is it.  Fresh blueberries and sliced endive come together with toasted almonds and hearty farro to make this not just a salad but a perfect summer meal.  The shallot vinaigrette is bright and compliments the earthy farro and sweet blueberries.  Fresh goat cheese and thinly sliced chives top this salad stunner adding a little creaminess and a bit of zing.  America’s Test Kitchen does it again.  If you haven’t ordered a copy of Vegetables Illustrated I encourage you to do so today!

Farro and Endive Salad with Blueberries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated Vegetables Illustrated

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1+ 1/2 cups cooked farro

Sea salt and pepper

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 heads of Belgian endive, about 4 ounces each, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced cross-wide

1+1/2 cups blueberries

¾ cup toasted slivered almonds

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions:

Cook farro according to package instructions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside.  Toast almonds in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant and light brown.  Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together vinegar, shallot, chives, mustard, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue to whisk.  Add drained farro, endive, blueberries, and almonds.  Toss to combine.  Next, season to taste with sea salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with goat cheese.  Serve and enjoy!  This salad makes excellent leftovers for lunch!

5 Summer Salad Links

Looking for a new Caprese salad to add to your collection?  Check out Brooklyn Supper’s shaved fennel and cherry bing Caprese salad.

Summer screams watermelon.  Why not try it in a salad with a little feta and mint?  Head to One-Pot Recipes blog for this one-pot recipe!

Take advantage of fresh corn season and make Kickass Baker’s avocado corn salad with white balsamic honey reduction.

Fruit salad is a welcome addition to any summer gathering.  Head to Bloglovin’ for a list of 5 fast and fancy fruit salads that are sure to be crowd-pleasers.

Israeli couscous salad with pickled shallots, peas, and feta is a must make every summer.  It’s also one of the most popular recipes on this blog.  Check it out!  I promise it will not disappoint!

ATK’s Oatmeal Raisin Bread + 5 Delicious Bread Links

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It has been a month since my grandmother passed.  I continue to walk around in a fog, seeing and hearing her everywhere I go.  Maybe at some point, I will continue my story of Ann and Tess based on my relationship with her.  Maybe I’ll share her final days with you.  Maybe not.  For now, I’ll continue to bake and cook.  I feel closer to her when I do as she was an excellent cook and baker.

I made bread for the first time.  This recipe hails from America’s Test Kitchen Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook.  This bread is a project.  It’s a commitment but like most things that take time, it is worth it.  Rustic, earthy, slightly sweet, toasts well and especially satisfying with a generous slab of butter are all great descriptions but really you should just make it and find out for yourself.

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Cook it in Your Dutch Oven Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup (3 ounces) old-fashion rolled oats

¾ cup (6 ounces) water, at room temperature

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour

½ cup (2 ¾ ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup raisins

Directions:

Microwave ¾ cup oats and water in a large bowl. Be sure bowl is covered. Stir occasionally until oats are soft and water is completely absorbed, 5 minutes or so. Cool completely and set aside.

Using the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, yeast, and salt. Whisk melted butter and milk together in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Attach the dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.  Very slowly, add milk/butter mixture to flour mixture. Mix until a dough forms and no dry flour is visible about 2 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the bowl as you mix.

Increase the speed to medium/low kneading the dough until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add raisins.  Next, slowly add oatmeal two tablespoons at a time.  Mix until well combined, about 3 minutes. Lightly grease a large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl and cover tightly with plastic.  Allow rising for 30 minutes.

Using your fingertips gently fold the dough over itself by folding the edge of the dough toward the middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again.  Turn bowl and fold 6 more times, 8 folds total. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.  Repeat the process of folding and rising every 30 minutes, 2 more times. After the 3rd fold and rise process, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes to 1 ¼ hours.

Place a large piece of parchment paper, about 18x12inches, on the counter and spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Stretch dough to 10-inch round. Be sure to deflate any gas pockets bigger than 1-inch. Working around the perimeter of the dough, fold the edges towards the center until ball forms. Flip dough so the seam of the dough ball is now on the bottom. Cup your hands and drag tiny circles on the counter until dough is stiff and round.  Mist the dough lightly with water on all sides.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of oats and press gently so the oats adhere to the dough.

Place loaf, seam side down, on the parchment paper. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap.  Let dough rise until loaf increases in size to about half and the dough slightly bounces back when gently pushed with your knuckle, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thirty minutes prior to baking place your Dutch oven with the lid on in the oven on the lowest rack.  Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Slash the bread with a sharp paring knife, making two 5-inch long and a ½ inch deep slashes to form a cross in the center of the bread.  Remove any exposed raisins.

Remove Dutch oven from oven and place on wire rack. Remove the lid. Using the parchment as a sling, lower the dough into the Dutch oven.  Tuck in any excess parchment paper and place the lid back on the Dutch oven. Place in oven and reduce the temperature to 425F. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the loaf is a deep golden brown and the temperature of the bread is 200 to 210 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Using the parchment paper sling, remove the bread and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely for 3 hours, before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

5 Delicious Bread Links

Alexandra’s Kitchen is my favorite blog.  I have yet to try a recipe that isn’t completely satisfying and delicious.  Check out her recipes for the easiest focaccia bread and the best no-knead brioche buns.  They will not disappoint!

Food 52 claims their milk bread recipe will produce the most addictive bread you will ever eat.  Curious?  Here is the recipe.

Looking for a breakfast bread to serve at your next brunch?  Check out What Should I Eat For Breakfast’s cinnamon raisin walnut bread and The Surban Soapbox everything bagel brioche bread.

 

 

Creamy Leek & Potato Soup + America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegetables Illustrated Cookbook Review

Cook’s Illustrated new cookbook Vegetables Illustrated is a beautifully compiled cookbook of delicious, easy to make, and crowd-pleasing recipes featuring vegetables as the star.  The cookbook reads like a reference guide with vegetables separated into individual chapters accompanied by tips, tricks, and innovative recipes that any meat lover will enjoy.

I chose the creamy leek and potato soup because I was craving something warm and comforting with the taste and colors of spring.  April in New England is a bit like Jekyll and Hyde, sunny and warm one day then raw and raining the next!  This soup did not disappoint in flavor or comfort.  The flavor of the leeks shines through while the thyme compliments its earthy flavor.  The addition of the russet potato and bread make this soup hearty without the addition of cream.  Seasoning to taste with salt and pepper is important as both bring out the flavor of the leeks.  I added a bit of Maldon sea salt flakes which is a must buy for any salt lover.  Just a sprinkle is all you need.  Serve this soup with fresh, crusty bread and you have comfort in a bowl.

Next on my list of must makes from this cookbook is the southwestern radish and apple salad, quickly followed by a carrot cake recipe that makes my mouth water every time I look at the photograph.  With four hundred and eighty-five pages of recipes, I have a lot to explore and just in time with fresh produce from farmer’s markets arriving soon.  You can purchase this cookbook here.  I highly recommend it.  Happy Spring!

I reached out to America’s Test Kitchen who sent me this cookbook for free.  All opinions are my own.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Vegetables Illustrated

 Ingredients:

2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise and sliced thin, dark green parts halved and cut into 2-inch pieces, (be sure to wash all of it thoroughly)

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)

2 cups of water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

Kosher salt and pepper

1 small russet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼ inch slices

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme or tarragon (I used thyme.)

1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, toasted a bit and torn into ¼ inch pieces

Directions:

Add broth, water, and dark green leek pieces to a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover.  Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  Using a fine mesh sieve strain broth over an empty bowl while pushing on the solids to release as much liquid and flavor as possible.  Set aside.

Add butter to a now-empty saucepan and melt over medium-low heat.  Add sliced white bread, green leeks, onion, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Reduce heat to low and cook stirring often until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Next, increase the heat to high and add broth, potato, bay leaf, and herb sprig.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until potato is soft and bread breaks down about 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and herb sprig.  Process soup in batches in a blender or use a handheld immersion blender to save you time.  Process until smooth.  Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt flakes and thyme leaves.  Serve with crusty bread if desired.  Enjoy!

 

 

America’s Test Kitchen’s Bucatini with Peas, Kale and Pancetta

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America’s Test Kitchen just recently came out with a new cookbook called Cook It in Your Dutch Oven.  I flipped through three hundred pages of beautiful images of food with easy, mouth-watering recipes before settling on bucatini with peas, kale, and pancetta as a new weeknight meal to try.   Pasta is such a comfort food, especially during a cold New England winter.  Why not add one more in our weekly rotation of comfort food?

This recipe is light but heavy on flavor thanks to the addition of bacon crumbles and lemon infused panko bread crumbs.  Five cups of kale add a healthy green and a bit of a bitter flavor which offsets the rich bacon undertones.  The crunchy, bright breadcrumbs and crisp bacon add excellent texture and depth.  Easy, kid-friendly and all of it made in your Dutch oven, what’s not to like?

Cook It In Your Dutch Oven includes recipes for one-pot dinners, classic soups, hearty stews and chilis, roasts and braises, fried foods, simple sides, bakery style breads, and dessert.  Lamb meatballs with orzo, tomatoes and feta, spicy Thai-style shrimp soup, classic beef stew, roast chicken with cranberry-walnut stuffing, and California-style fried fish tacos are just a few of the recipes that are now on my must make list.  My desire for sweets takes precedence over my desire for savory so I may need to start with chocolate lava cake for a crowd.

Interested in buying a copy?  Head to America’s Test Kitchen or Amazon.  Enjoy!

 

*I reached out to America’s Test Kitchen.  In exchange for testing a recipe and posting it on my blog, I received a free copy of Cook It In Your Dutch Oven. *

 

Bucatini with Peas, Kale and Pancetta

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cookbook Cook It In Your Dutch Oven

Ingredients:

½ cup panko bread crumbs, toasted

1 ½ ounce of Parmesan cheese, about ¾ cup

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and pepper ( I used Kosher salt.)

2 ounces of pancetta, cut into ½ inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup dry white wine

2 ½ cups water, + more as needed

2 cups chicken broth

1-pound bucatini

5 ounces of baby kale, about 5 cups

1 cup of frozen peas

Directions:

Toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet with a bit of olive oil until golden brown.  Next, mix together toasted breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of Parmesan, olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Cook pancetta in your Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to serve pasta.

Add garlic and remaining lemon zest to Dutch oven and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.  Add wine, scraping any browned bits and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add water and broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in pasta and return to a strong simmer.  Cook pasta, stirring often until the pasta is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add kale and peas.  Stir and continue to cook until the peas and kale are tender about 4 minutes.  Add remaining Parmesan and stir until pasta is creamy and completely coated about 30 seconds.  Add extra hot water if pasta seems too dry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve and sprinkle each serving with crispy pancetta and lemon panko breadcrumbs.  Enjoy!