Thursday, September 25, 2008

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

I've been watching the Food Network lately trying to find some new recipies. This recipe is from Giada De Laurentils from the show Everyday Italian. I really like this recipie because of all the different kinds of good vegetables in it.

Unfortunatly, the kids didn't really like this too much. They really are not that used to eating vegetables. Perhaps as we try to include more vegetables in their diet they will come around on this one.

[I'll try to add a photo the next time I make this]

Prep Time: 25
Cook Time: 40
Yield: 6 servings

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is till hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich

This recipe is easy and delicious. I love the flavor of pineapple with the teriyaki. I'm sure this would be good with other cheeses, or other toppings. I like to filet the chicken breasts before marinating them, but you could also pound them flat. Anything to get the chicken a more even thickness. I've used the La Choy teriyaki sacue and it seems to be pretty good. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Thank you Cheri and Braden for teaching me how to grill the pineapple.

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
teriyaki sauce
pineapple slices
brown sugar
hamburger buns
swiss cheese

1. Marinate chicken breasts in teriyaki sauce.

2. Toss pineapple slices with brown sugar and let rest a few minutes.

3. Cook (medium heat) chicken and pineapple slices on heated grill until done.

4. Serve grilled chicken on hamburger buns topped with swiss cheese and pineapple slices.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cream Puffs ( Choux Pastry)

Cream Puffs are one of my favorite deserts. They look fantastic but are not really that hard to make. The only hard part is getting them to not collapse after pulling them out of the oven. I typically fill my cream puffs with instant vanilla pudding and sliced strawberries. I went a little heavy on the powdered sugar in the photo bellow.

You can also use this recipe to make other pastries such as eclairs.

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

1. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each. Bake as directed below or use as directed in other recipes.

2. Drop Cream Puff Pastry dough by heaping tablespoon into 12 mounds 3 inches apart onto a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 400F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheet; cool on a wire rack. Cut off the tops of each puff; remove any soft dough from inside. Fill each with 1/4 cup whipped cream, pudding, ice cream, or as desired. Replace cream puff top. If desired, sift powdered sugar over tops of the filled puffs.


  • Use large eggs; add them one at a time.

  • Add the flour as soon as the butter is melted and the water boils so that the water doesn't boil away in the saucepan..

  • Set a timer so the pastry dough cools for 10 mintues - then beat in the first egg..

  • Be sure the puffs are golden brown, firm, and dry before you remove them from the oven..

  • Fill the shells just before serving, or fill and chill the puffs up to 2 hours to keep the bottoms from getting soggy..

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was incredible! The challenge was hosted by Elle ( Feeding My Enthusiasms ) and Deborah ( Taste and Tell ). They chose the challenge recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.

I had never made cheesecake before, so I was a little nervous about this challenge. The recipe was actually rather easy to follow. I did, however, end up cooking my cheesecake for around 60 minutes. The center looked too soft at the suggested baking time.

As for toppings, I decided to melt some Hershey's Milk Chocolate Symphony bars. I then rolled the pops in coconut, Andes Mint chips, Heath Bar chips, or sprinkled them with colorful sprinkles. After the milk chocolate ran out, I melted some white chocolate Ghirardelli chips. These I drizzled with some left over milk chocolate.

I actually had some trouble with the white chocolate. I tried to melt the chips, but ended up with a hard, lumpy mess. After a quick google search, I found up that the chocolate had 'seized' up. This can happen if the smallest amount of liquid gets in the chocolate, or if you try to heat the chocolate too fast. In any case, I ended up adding some more vegetable shorting and the chocolate came out alright.

These little delicious desserts are fun to make, look great, and are simply wonderful. I hope that you have as much fun making and sharing these little treasures. Let me know what other toppings you think up.

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes (or longer).

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Suggested Toppings:
Coconut Flakes
Andes Mint chips
Heath Bar chips
Candy Sprinkles
White Chocolate with crushed Oreo cookies
White Chocolate with crushed pepermint candies

Monday, March 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

This months Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts. She chose Dorie Greenspan's "Perfect Party Cake" from her cookbook Baking from My Home to Yours. Even though we had permission to change the recipe flavors, I followed the original because I absolutly love raspberries.

One reason I love these monthly challenges is it gives me an excuse to get new kitchen gadgets. This month, I went out and purchased a Microplane zester. This tool is awesome! I was able to zest two lemons in no time at all.

Making the swiss merengue frosting was a lot of fun as well. I watched a video on youtube that demonstrated the process. This frosting is so light and tastes great. You really need to give this a try. You're going to love it.

This cake is absolutly delicious! I love the tartness of the raspberries with the lemon flavor. Add the coconut and I'm in love. This is now one of my favorite desserts. I hope you enjoy it as well. Check out what other Daring Bakers did with their cakes.

Perfect Party Cake
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250)

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuscan Garlic Chicken

Another favorite from Olive Garden. This recipe can actually be found on the Olive Garden website and they even have a video with Chef Paolo Lafata showing how to make this wonderful dish.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 lb fettuccine pasta
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp roasted garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, julienne cut
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 lb whole leaf spinach, stemmed
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F

2. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess.

3. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts 2 at a time over medium-high heat until golden brown and crisp (2-3 min each side). Add more oil for each batch as necessary.

4. Place cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet and transfer to preheated oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F.

5. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

6. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for approximately 1 minute. Stir in 1 Tbsp flour, white wine, spinach and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Sauce is done when spinach becomes wilted. Complete by stirring in parmesan cheese.

7. Coat pasta with sauce, then top with chicken and remaining sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese.

Zuppa Toscana

This is probably my favorite soup at Olive Garden. I was so excited when I found the recipe at This is supposed to be the actual Olive Garden recipe, adapted to a manageable size.

I found this to be a little spicy, so I would recommend decreasing the amount of crushed red pepper. Other than that, the soup was wonderful and tasted as good as the restaurant version.

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces
2 tsp garlic puree
10 cups water
5 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb sliced Russet potatoes (3 large potatoes)
1/4 bunch kale

1. Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.

2. In the same pan, saute bacon, onions and garlic for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.

3. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.

4. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

5. Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated.

6. Stir in the sausage.

7. Add kale just before serving.

Caramel Apples

Here is a wonderful treat that doesn't take much time. My friend Cheri introduced me to this recipe, and I've loved it every since. I love the mixture of tastes between the sour apple, sweet caramel, and salty peanuts. I think my favorite topping is peanuts, although I'm thinking of trying some peanut M&Ms next time. A crushed up heath bar would be good too.

Yield: 6 pieces

6 medium granny smith apples
6 Popsicle sticks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
chopped nuts (optional)
chopped candy (optional)

1. Wash apples and dry thoroughly. Insert Popsicle stick in stem end of each apple. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or spray plate with cooking spray.

2. In 2 quart saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup, milk and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly to 230 F on candy thermometer or until a few drops of syrup dropped into cup of cold water forms a small ball that flattens when pressed lightly. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool slightly.

3. Quickly dip apples, swirling until covered. Dip bottoms in candy, sprinkles, or nuts if desired.

Dutch Oven: Peachy Cobbler

Who doesn't love cobbler? What a great way to end a meal around the campfire. This is an easy recipe that ends with great results. I tend to like white or yellow cake mix, but feel free to mix things up a bit. You could also try different fruit. How about some pears or apricots? Let me know about any of your ideas.

For an easier clean up, line the bottom and sides of the dutch oven with aluminum foil.

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Yield: 8+ servings

2 cans (30 oz) sliced peaches, drained
1 cake mix
1 can 7UP
1 tbsp butter
ground cinnamon

1. Spread drained peaches on bottom of 12 inch dutch oven. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

2. Sprinkle cake mix evenly on top of peaches.

3. Pour 7UP evenly on top of cake mix.

4. Place slices of butter on top of the cake mix.

5. Using 12 briquettes on bottom and 12 briquettes on top, cook for 45 to 60 minutes. Turn the dutch oven a quarter turn every 15 minutes.

6. When cobbler is done, crush the briquettes on top of the dutch oven with a hammer. This will release a lot of heat and brown the top of the cobbler nicely.

7. Serve warm. Goes great with ice cream.

Dutch Oven: 7UP Chicken

This is a really easy dutch oven recipe that tastes great. Last time I made this, I didn't listen to Sarah and didn't add enough seasoning, so make sure you add enough seasonings. Also, make sure you have enough heat under your dutch oven so it doesn't take all night to cook.

This is just a basic recipe, and I'm sure you can expand on it. I'm thinking it would be good to saute the onions, garlic, carrots, and maybe some peppers. Maybe even brown the chicken breasts before adding all the ingredients. Go ahead, be creative and let me know how it turns out.

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 min
Yield: 6+ servings

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, quartered
3 lbs russet potatoes
2 cans 7UP
seasoned salt
coarse ground black pepper
Tony's Creole Seasoning

1. Slice carrots, onion, and potatoes and place in dutch oven with garlic.

2. Add chicken breasts. Add a generous amount of seasoning salt, pepper, and Tony's Creole seasoning. Pour 7UP oven ingredients.

3. Place dutch oven over hot charcoal briquettes.

4. Cook for 1 hour 30 min or until potatoes are done.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Best Big, Fat, Chewy, Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't know if this is the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, but this is probably my favorite of all that I've tried. They are really easy to make, and taste great. Let me know what you think.

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Yield: 24

4 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
2 cups packed brown sugar ( CH Golden Brown)
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups chocolate chips ( 11.5 oz Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate)

1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

2. Cream together melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until well blended. Beat in vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until creamy. Mix in sifted dry ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. Refrigerate dough at least one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease cookie sheets.

4. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, press cookie dough into measuring cup and then drop on cookie sheet. Cookes should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets around 10 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.

Original recipe from Doubled original recipe except for chocolate chips and added 1/2 cup extra flour

Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Julia Child's French Bread

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Mary of The Sour Dough and Sarah of I Like to Cook. The recipe comes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2". Julia goes into great detail on the various steps involved and the recipe ends up taking 18 pages in her cookbook. Looking at the entire recipe can be somewhat frightening, but if you break it down into the different steps, it's not too bad. There is alot of really good information contained in this recipe. Mary and Sarah did a great job putting this challenge together.

I really wanted to do a good job with this challenge, so I took the time to read thorugh the recipe a few times. It was also recommended to watch the online video of Julia Child with Danielle Forestier making french bread. This video shows some of the techniques used in this recipe, even though the recipe in the video is different. I love the kneading technique. Slamming the dough onto the counter top over and over again. I ended up with flour all oven the kitchen. It's a good thing that Sarah was out of town. She would have had a heart attack to see the kitchen like that.

I bought my first digital thermometer, digital scale, and a bench scrapper. I even ended up trying King Arthur flour, as it was the only unbleached flour I could find. To simulate a baker's oven, I went to Home Depot and purchased some quarry tiles. Even with all of this preparation, my first attempt at the recipe was not very successful. Everything went great until I tried to unmold the dough from the floured kitchen towels. I guess that I need to get some better cloth for the next time. Anyway, some of my loaves ended up getting deflated. The real problem, was my oven. After putting the first loaf in, I threw some water in the bottom of the oven to generate steam. I then repeated every few minutes as per the recipe. Somehow, my oven was no longer heating back up to 450 degrees even though it was turned on. Of course I didn't realize the problem until about 10 minutes later. The first batch came out a little flat.

I felt like I needed to do better, so I decided to try again this morning. I'm happy to say that this batch turned out so much better. Although I still had some issues with the loaves sticking to my cloth when unmolding them.

When they finally were done cooking, I took them out of the oven and was thrilled to hear the crust crackle as they started to cool. My mouth was watering as I anticipated the wonderful flavor that was waiting for me. Only a few hours until I could enjoy them.

The time finally came when I cut into the french bread. The crust was crisp and the center was soft and delightful. A little bit of butter, and I was in heaven. This has been a great initiation into the Daring Bakers group. I can't wait until next month's challenge is posted.

Pain Francais (French Bread)
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck)
Daring Bakers Challenge #16: February 2008

Hosts: Breadchick Mary (The Sour Dough) and Sara (I Like To Cook)

Posting Date: February 29, 2008

Recipe Quantity:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

Flour: French bakers make plain French bread out of unbleached flour that has gluten strength of 8 to 9 per cent. Most American all-purpose flour is bleached and has slightly higher gluten content as well as being slightly finer in texture. It is easier to make bread with French flour than with American flour.

(Mary and Sara Note: This was true when this book was written in the late 50s but today it is very easy to find unbleached AP flour. In addition, you can source French style, lower gluten AP flour from several specialty millers such as King Arthur Flour)

Bakers’ Oven Versus Home Ovens: Bakers’ ovens are so constructed that one slides the formed bread dough from a wooden panel right onto the hot, fire-brick oven floor, a steam injection system humidifies the oven for the first few minutes of baking. Steam allows the yeast to work a little longer in the dough and this, combined with the hot baking surface, produced an extra push of volume. In addition, steam coagulating the starch on the surface of the dough gives the crust its characteristic brown color. Although you can produce a good loaf of French bread without steam or a hot baking surface, you will a larger and handsomer loaf when you simulate professional conditions.

(Mary and Sara Note: Julia provided a very nice step by step of how to make a simulated bakers oven at home at the end of the recipe. We will provide those same steps plus a few of Mary’s bread making/baking tips she uses for those of you Daring Bakers who want to take it to the limits!)

Stand Mixer Mixing and Kneading of French Bread Dough: French bread dough is too soft to work in the electric food processor, but the heavy-duty mixer with dough hook works perfectly. The double-hook attachment that comes with some hand held mixers and the hand-cranking bread pails are slower and less efficient, to our mind, than hand kneading. In any case, when you are using electricity, follow the steps in the recipe as outlined, including the rests; do not over-knead and for the heavy duty mixer, do not go over a moderate speed of number 3 or 4, or you risk breaking down the gluten in the dough.

(Mary and Sara Note: When this book was written the average home heavy duty stand mixer was less than 300W and the hand mixer was less than 250W. Today you can find stand mixers with much better wattage and torque. Mary has made this dough using both her old Sunbeam Mixmaster from the late 80s with a 325W motor and her Kitchen Aid 7 speed Ultra Power Plus Handheld and had both struggle quite a lot. She has also made this dough with a Kitchen Aid Artisan (350W) and it did OK but also struggled a bit at the end so if you have an Artisan, keep your eye on it, especially at the end of the kneading as the gluten really develops. Mary has made this recipe several times with her Kitchen Aid Pro V Plus (450W) and it had no problems what so ever with the dough. So, a good rule of thumb to use to decide between making the dough by hand or by machine is probably 350W or better for motor power in your mixer, either hand or stand. If it looks like your mixer is struggling, finish the dough by hand. One last reminder, always follow the speed directions of your mixer manufacturer for using the dough hook. The Kitchen Aid recommendation is not to go over Speed 2 when using the dough hook on their mixers.)

Equipment Needed: Unless you plan to go into the more elaborate simulation of a baker’s oven, you need no unusual equipment for the following recipe. Here are the requirements, some of which may sound odd but will explain themselves when you read the recipe.
• 4 to 5 quart mixing bowl with fairly vertical rather than outward slanting sides
• a kneading surface of some sort, 1 1/2 to 2 square feet
• a rubber spatula or either a metal scraper or a stiff wide metal spatula
• 1 to 2 unwrinkled canvas pastry cloths or stiff linen towels upon which the dough may rise
• a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood 18 – 20 inches long and 6 – 8 inches wide, for unmolding dough from canvas to baking sheet
• finely ground cornmeal or pasta pulverized in an electric blender to sprinkle on unmolding board so as to prevent dough from sticking
• the largest baking sheet that will fit in your oven
• a razor blade or extremely sharp knife for slashing the top of the dough
• a soft pastry brush or fine spray atomizer for moistening dough before and during baking
• a room thermometer to verify rising temperature
• Mary and Sara also recommend the use of an oven thermometer

Step1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)

1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 - 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 - 23C

(Mary and Sara Note: if you are using instant yeast, you may reduce the amount to 1 3/4 tsp or 7 gr but you will still want to "proof" it because that is important for taste development in this bread)

Both Methods: Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method: Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Stand Mixer: (Mary and Sara note: Julia did not give detailed instructions about how the dough comes together other than “combine the ingredients using the dough hook”, therefore these directions are based upon their experiences) Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

(Mary and Sara Note for both methods: Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Mary likes to keep a soup or cereal bowl of flour and a 1 cup measure of water with a tablespoon next to her mixer for this.)

Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method: Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Stand Mixer: (Mary and Sara note: Julia did not give detailed instructions about kneading the dough other than “knead”) Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready. Mary also recommends always finishing with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed.

Both Methods: Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

(Mary and Sara note: From here out in the recipe, there is no difference for the hand vs. stand method)

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl.)

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

(Mary and Sara Note: If your oven has an oven light, turn on the oven light when you start making the dough. By the time you are ready for the first rise, the temperature in your oven will be around 70 degrees. You can check with your oven thermometer. If you don’t have an oven light, like Mary, you can turn the oven on to its lowest setting about 5 minutes before you begin your rise. Leave on for 1 – 5 minutes until the temperature is around 75- 80 degrees. Turn off oven, when you open the door to put the dough in to rise, your oven will be around 70 degrees. Another trick is to put your dough on top of your hot water heater. Place a folded towel on top of the hot water heater and let rise. Also a heating pad works well. Mary also has used those give away shower caps from hotels to cover her bowls and the bowl covers for the metal mixing bowls work well too. Always lightly grease the plastic wrap or bowl cover so if the risen dough touches it, the dough won’t stick.)

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

(Mary and Sara Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking)

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
• 3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
• 5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
• 10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
• 2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)
• If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.

After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves - The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

(Mary and Sara Note: Empty paper towel tubes and/or bottles of spices work well as braces as well)

For Long Thin Loaves – Ficelles: Follow the steps above but making thinner sausage shapes about 1/2 inch in diameter. When they have risen, slash as with the Batard.

For Oval Rolls – Petits Pains, Tire-Bouchons: Form like batards, but you will probably not have to lengthen them at all after the two foldings and sealings. Place rolls on a floured canvas about 2 – 4” apart and cover with plastic to rise. When they have risen, make either 2 parallel slashes or a single slash going from one end to the other.

For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.

Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side.

Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smooths the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction.

Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together.

Place the dough pucker side up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference.

For Small Round Rolls – Petits Pains, Champignons: The principles are the same here as for the preceding round loaves, but make the cushion shape with your fingers rather than the palms of your hands.

For the second stage, during which the ball of dough is rotated smooth side up, roll it under the palm of one hand, using your thumb and little finger to push the edges of the dough underneath and to form the pucker, where the edges join together

Place the formed ball of dough pucker side up on the flour rubbed canvas and cover loosely while forming the rest. Space the balls 2 inches apart. When risen to almost triple its size, lift gently with lightly floured fingers and place pucker side down on baking sheet. Rolls are usually too small for a cross so make either one central slash or the semi-circular cut.

For Large Oval Loaf – Pain Boulot: Follow the directions for the round loaves except instead of rotating between the balms of your hands and tucking to form a round loaf, continue to turn the dough from the right to the left, tucking a bit of each end under the oblong loaf. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped oval with tow little puckers of dough, le cles, underneath where all the edges of have joined together.

Place the dough pucker sides up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the puckers by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with parallel slashes going diagonally across the top starting from the upper left and going to the lower right.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage.
(Mary and Sara note: we are only going to describe the unmolding of The Batard but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!)

The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
(Mary and Sara Note: We will only describe the slashing for the Batard here. All other slashes for the other shapes are described in Step 6: Forming the Loaves)

The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
(Mary and Sara Note: We know this will be the hardest thing to do for this challenge. But, if you do not let the French bread cool, the bread will be doughy and the crust will be soft. If you want to have warm French bread, re-heat the bread after it has cooled in a 400 degree oven, uncovered and directly on the oven rack for 10 – 12 minutes if it is unfrozen. If it has been frozen see the directions below)

Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

Step 13: Canvas housekeeping
After each bread session, if you have used canvas, brush it thoroughly to remove all traces of flour and hang it out to dry before putting away. Otherwise the canvas could become mouldy and ruin your next batch of dough.

The Simulated Bakers’ Oven

Baking in the ordinary way, as described in the preceding recipe, produces an acceptable loaf of bread but does not nearly approach the glory you can achieve when you turn your home oven into a baker’s oven. Merely providing yourself with the proper amount of steam, if you can do nothing else, will vastly improve the crust, the color, the slash patterns, and the volume of your bread; steam is only a matter of plopping a heated brick or stone into a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The second provision is a hot surface upon which the naked dough can bake; this gives that added push of volume that improves both the appearance and the slash patterns. When you have the hot baking surface, you will then also need a paddle or board upon which you can transfer dough from canvas to hot baking surface. For the complete set up here is you should have, and any building-supply store stocks these items.

For the hot baking surface: Metal will not do as a hot baking surface because it burns the bottom of the dough. The most practical and easily obtainable substance is ordinary red floor tiles 1/4” thick. They come in various sizes such as 6 x 6, 6 x 3, and you only need enough to line the surface of an oven rack. Look them up under Tiles in your Directory, and ask for “quarry tiles” their official name.

(Mary and Sara Note: When this book was written, quarry tiles had a fair amount of asbestos in them. Today, in North America and Europe, they normally are made of clay. Make sure if you decide to go purchase some quarry tiles you only purchase unglazed quarry tiles because most of the glazes used contain lead or some other nasty substance that could get transferred. A large pizza stone will also work but make sure it is at least 1/4 inch thick because the thinner ones can break when used at the high heats that baking bread requires. Make sure you never put wet tiles in the oven because they can shatter or worse as the oven heats up.)

For unmolding the risen dough from its canvas: A piece of 3/16 inch plywood about 20 inches wide.

For sliding the dough onto the hot tiles: When you are doing 3 long loaves, you must slide them together onto the hot tiles; to do so you unmold them one at a time with one board and arrange them side by side on the second board, which takes place on the baker’s paddle, la pelle. Buy a piece of plywood slightly longer but 2 inches narrower than your oven rack.

(Mary and Sara note: Today, you can buy a real baker’s paddle easily online or at a restaurant supply store for about the same money as a piece of plywood and it will have a bevelled edge that will make sliding loaves in and out of the oven easier)

To prevent dough from sticking to unmolding and sliding boards: White cornmeal or small dried pasta pulverized in the electric blender until it is the consistency of table salt. This is called fleurage.

The steam contraption: Something that you can heat to sizzling hot on top of the stove and then slide into a pan of water in the oven to make a great burst of steam: a brick, a solid 10lb rock, piece of cast iron or other metal. A 9 x 12 inch roasting pan 2 inches deep to hold an inch of water and the hot brick.

(Mary and Sara note: Other ways to get steam in the oven is pre-heat the oven and then to fill a pan with ice cubes put it on the lower rack and then pour warm water into the pan. The temperature difference between the ice cubes and the warm water will create steam. Also you can toss ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. Put a metal baking sheet on the bottom rack, pre-heat the oven with the baking sheet in the oven and right before you put your loaves in, spritz water onto the pan.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

French Dip Sandwiches with Au Jus

I got this recipe from my good friend Marcie. She made this wonderful meal for our family after our sweet Katie was born. It tasted so good that I just had to get the recipe from her. This sandwich has such a good taste to it, especially when you dip it in the au jus. Thanks Marcie for sharing.

Cooking Time: 8 hours
Prep Time: 20 min

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb rump roast
1 can Campbells French Onion Soup
1 can Campbells Beef Broth
1 can Beer ( or substitute with another can of beef broth)

Provolone or swiss cheese

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours. Take roast out of crock pot and remove the fat. Put roast back in crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. Shred the meat and keep warm in the crock pot.

Slice the baguette lenght wise. Butter each side and top with provolone or swiss cheese. Broil in oven until lightly toasted. Top with shredded meat and serve with a small cup of the au jus for dipping.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


While living in Brest, France as a missionary, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn this recipe for crepes from a great lady, Mrs. Aasbo. She would invite my missionary companion and myself over for dinner and we would sit at her kitchen table with her two sons while she made us crepes. As Mrs. Aasbo would make the crepes, we would tell her what kind we would like. Hawaiian ( ham, pineapple, and cheese) was my favorite. We would eat until we could not eat anymore. Mrs. Aasbo would continue to cook up the crepes and sent us home with a large stack of crepes for the next few days.

Original Recipe from Mrs. Aasbo
1 kg flour
700 g sugar
12 - 14 eggs
8 wooden spoonfuls of oil
2 litres milk

I have done my best to convert the original recipe. Now be aware that this makes a lot of crepes. Even though I have a nice Kitchen Aide mixer, I still prefer to mix these crepes up by hand, the way Mrs. Aasbo taught me.

7 cups flour
3 cups sugar
14 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
8 cups milk

Dump the flour into the bottom of a large bowl. (This recipe makes approximately 4 quarts of batter) Pour the sugar on top followed by the eggs and oil.

With a wooden spoon, mix the batter until smooth. This is going to take some muscle as the batter will be rather thick. Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl really good so that all the flour is mixed. The batter should be really thick and sticky.

Add the first half of the milk a little at a time, mixing in a figure eight pattern. When the milk is mostly incorporated in the batter, add a little more. This will help prevent lumps in your crepe batter. Make sure to only mix in the figure eight pattern. You can throw in a few large circles around the edge of the bowl. Mix in the second half of the milk in a similar fashion.

Let rest in refridgerator for a few hours. This will allow the froth in the batter to come to the top. I usually put the batter into pitchers which makes removing the froth a little easier.

When you are ready to cook the crepes, make sure to remove as much froth from the top of the batter as possible. This will reduce the number of holes in your crepes. Now I use an electric crepe cooker, but you could also use a crepe pan, or a traditional crepe maker. I have tried all three and prefer the electric crepe maker method for it's ease of use.

After your crepes are cooked, you can fill them with almost anything. Here are some of my favorites.

Black Forest Ham with Swiss Cheese
Fresh Strawberries with Cool Whip

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Won-Ton Chicken Salad

I'm not exactly sure where Sarah go this recipe, but I absolutely love it. This is one of my favorite salads, and it's not that hard to make. Now this recipe makes quite a large salad, so you better share it because it does not keep very well. Also, if you like more chicken, just serve everyone else first. You should then have plenty of chicken, as most of the chicken tends to hide at the bottom of the bowl.


2 heads of lettuce
6 grilled boneless/skinless chicken breasts
6 small green onions
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 can Mandarin oranges
6 oz won-ton wrappers


1/2 cup vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper


1. Fry won-ton wrappers in oil so they are golden brown when done ( Remove from oil before turning brown and they will brown up without being over cooked)
2. Grill chicken breasts brushed with olive oil. Cut cooked chicken breasts into bit size chunks and set aside.
3. For dressing, heat vinegar and sugar until dissolved. ( Don't boil ). Remove from heat and add canola oil, salt and pepper.
4. Mix all ingredients except dressing together in a large bowl.
5. Just before serving, add dressing to salad and toss.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Here is a great recipe for a warm, winter drink. Our neighbors shared this with us on Halloween a few years ago while we sat outside around a fire pit. I loved it and asked them for the recipe. Thank you Davis family for sharing this with us.

1 quart Apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp red hots ( or handful of hot tamales )

1. Mix all ingredients in sauce pan.
2. Heat over medium heat to combine flavors.
3. Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clam Chowder

My family usually has this for dinner on Christmas Eve. This makes a lot of chowder and is great when you have a few guests over. We usually serve this delicious chowder in freshly baked bread bowls. Make sure you save the insides of the bread bowls to dip in the chowder. I tend to like a lot of potatoes in my chowder, but feel free to reduce this if you want.

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
5 lbs potatoes, cubed
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 quart half and half
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, coarse
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 cans clams, minced

1. Place potatoes, onion, celery, and carrot in large pot. Cover with water and cook until tender.
2. Melt butter in large sauce pan. Mix flour in with butter.
3. Slowly blend in half and half a little at a time. Add spices.
4. Drain clam juice into white sauce. Set clams aside. Continue to cook white sauce on medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce starts to bubble.
5. Add white sauce to potatoes with water. Let simmer.
6. Add clams just before serving.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Belgian Waffles

This has to be one of my favorite recipies. I absolutely love these waffles, especially with some good sausage and eggs. They are light and fluffy and have a great taste. I personally like these with some blueberry syrup and a dollop of whipping cream. They are great for breakfast, brunch, or even for dinner. The past two Sundays we have had guests over for dinner and they loved these waffles. Sarah gave me another belgian waffle maker for Christmas, which makes making a double batch of these go much faster.

Yield: 10

1 pkg dry yeast
2 cups milk, luke warm
4 eggs, seperated
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1. Seperate eggs and beat whites until fluffy.
2. Warm milk. Sprinkle yeast over warm milk.
3. Beat egg yolks and add to yeast mixture with vanilla.
4. Sift together flour, salt, and sugar. Add to liquid mixture.
5. Stir in melted butter or vegetable oil and flour. Combine thoroughly.
6. Carefully fold beaten egg whites into batter.
7. Let mixture stand in a warm place about 45 minutes or until mixture doubles in bulk.
8. Use 3/4 to 1 cup mix per waffle.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Speedy Chicken Stir-Fry

I received this wonderful recipe in the Kraft food & family magazine (Fall 2007). It's really easy to make and tastes great. The roasted peanuts really add the final touch, so make sure that you don't skip those.

Yield: 4 servings
Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 25 min

8 oz Angel hair pasta (capellini), uncooked
2 cups broccoli florets
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 cup chopped Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts

1. Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 6 to 8 minutes
or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and crushed red
pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of the pasta
cooking time.
3. Drain pasta mixture; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture; mix lightly. Spoon evenly into serving
bowls; sprinkle with the peanuts.
***Substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand, such as snow peas, sliced bell peppers, sliced
carrots or chopped red onions, instead of the broccoli.
*** Original recipe from Kraft Food & Family magazine Fall 2007 ( )