Archive for May, 2010

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Memory

May 31, 2010


My mother’s mother’s mother reportedly made the best biscuits in southern Maine.  When it came time for a church supper, Grange dinner, or any other community event, there wasn’t any question of who would make the biscuits – the task was always deferred to Nanny O.  Her biscuits were buttery, flakey pillows of melt-in-your-mouth.  Delicious with a smear of butter, or a slather of jam, you could easily sit down to have one or two, only to suddenly find the entire pan gone and crumbs all down your shirt.  If you managed to have any left the next day, they were great with a piece of cheese or sliver of ham tucked in the middle.  And of course, they made an exquisite base for strawberry shortcake.

Nanny O. taught her children the recipe, and also some of her grandchildren.  My mother was lucky enough to learn at her elbow.  When Nanny passed away the one item loveymom asked for was Nanny’s biscuit cutter – a who-knows-how-old cheese sauce can (about the size of a current day small tomato paste can).  Those of us not fortunate enough to possess the sacred can use a biscuit cutter, between 2 and 2.5 inches across.

Both my mother and my grandmother gave me Nanny’s biscuit recipe, but I had problems.  Either they’d be hard little rocks instead of light fluffy clouds, or they’d be undercooked in the middle – there was always something that just wasn’t right.  Frustrating.  I knew what they were *supposed* to taste like, why couldn’t I replicate them?  Finally, I thought to compare the two versions side by side, and realized there were significant differences between the two.  Measurements, temperatures, and times were all different.  So back to square one I went – over to loveymom’s house to make a batch together and write it all down step by step on a flourescent yellow piece of paper that I can quickly identify as the proper version.

It’s been several years since that day, and by now I’m pretty darn consistent.  I still have issues every once in a while if I overwork the dough, but for the most part my results are good, and getting better all the time.  I brought a quadruple batch to a family cookout this weekend, and was secretly tickled when the biscuits were getting as many (if not more) compliments as the cookies I also brought.  For now, I’ll keep working on bringing piles of biscuits to family events.  And some day when I’ve really earned it, I just might gain possession of that darn can. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Look at it, all whirling around and spinning and everything

May 24, 2010

K, who is my recipe-taster/’work mom’/wedding baker/kitchen mentor/wonderful friend, has been tormenting me with these tasty delights for years.  I feel like I’m always asking her for the recipe, and recently when I was organizing my recipe book, I realized I was right.  I had not one, not two, but FOUR copies tucked inside.  K has the patience of a saint.  According to the official photocopy, these are called Tunnel Rolls, but for some reason mrslovey keeps trying to substitute other multi-syllabic words ‘T’ words, so in our house they’re now called Tornados.   Looking at the fine print, they’re another one-hit wonder from the world of recipe card mailings.  

The Tornados are like do-it-yourself Hot Pockets, but without all the chemicals and preservatives.  You can bake them, let them cool completely, and then wrap them in foil and toss in the freezer for lunch at a later date.  I also like that even though these get all big and puffy, there is no rise time.  You just make the dough, fill, roll, and bake.  You can also use frozen bread dough that’s been thawed.  Now that we’ve made these by the book the first time, we’re excited to try all different flavor combinations.  Maybe pear/turkey/brie, italian sausage and mozzarella, or something sweet like apples and cheddar.  The possibilities are endless! Read the rest of this entry ?

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sour saga, savory sammiches!

May 13, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin with this story, there are so many ups and down.

Back in September one of the interns at our CSA (who is an amazing baker, but I never caught his name, so I’ll be referring to him as Baker Guy) gave me a piece of his sourdough starter and instructions on how to care for it and use it.  He’d been tending it for several years across multiple countries, and was delighted to share it.  The next week I had to admit to him that I had completely botched the instructions, and it had exploded all over the kitchen counter and hardened into a rock, all within the first 24 hours.  Baker Guy was amused.  He excused himself for a minute, and came back with another jar of starter.  His only request was that the next week I bring him a piece of whatever I baked.  Talk about pressure!  At this point in time I was still only at a 50% success rate with my yeast breads.

The following week I made an adequate loaf, and brought Baker Guy a slice.  He gave it a passing grade and told me to keep up the good work.  I was very worried, as the following week was our wedding (and by “our” I mean mrslovey and I, not Baker Guy) and then we’d be off on our honeymoon.  How the heck would I be able to keep this gift alive and well, so that I could keep baking with it once we returned???  I’m not sure how, but amazingly enough I did it.  The starter positively thrived, and each loaf was better than the last as I tweaked my recipe and gained more skill.  Together, we made it through the craziness of the holidays and my super-frantic year-end rush at work.  We made it through the doldrums of January and February, and the dreary gray of March.

And then, at the end of April, my starter just….stopped.   Read the rest of this entry ?

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holy sh!t, I actually made pretzels!

May 3, 2010


It was harder than i thought to choose the initial recipe for handheld month.  My first option was put aside once I realized it was an overnight process, and I just didn’t have the patience for that.  My second option was also shunned once I realized it required ingredients I didn’t have, and I was trapped at home without a car (we won’t tell that story here, I’ll just say that my day didn’t start according to plan).  Then the distraction kicked in.  I was supposed to be doing some kind of ‘important handheld research’, but I kept peeking at King Arthur’s list of their 50 top-rated recipes.  Ooooo, shiny!!!  I’ve made several of these recipes, and would agree that they’re keepers.  Problem is, I kept getting sucked into all of the ones I hadn’t made yet.  And then, poking through the list, I saw it.  The solution to my handheld dilemma and the justification for my distraction!   Read the rest of this entry ?

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May – Handhelds

May 3, 2010

Sorry for the delay of the theme announcement this month.  I know you’ve all been holding your collective breath just waiting to see what’s next in the line-up.  Now that I’ve savored my birthday weekend, I’m ready to turn the oven back on!  May will be devoted to handhelds.  I’m going to take a liberal interpretation of that term, so while you may see items that could also fall into other categories, if you’re meant to pick it up in your hand to eat it, there’s a chance you could see it posted this month.