gone aw-rye


I splurged the other month on rye flour (and pumpernickel flour, and a few other things) at King Arthur the other month and a snow day from work seemed like a perfect opportunity to take my inaugural spin.

I have a couple of recipes, but the one I went with was from Marcy Goldman’s Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, which is indeed a treasure and what happened next does not reflect at all on the book or the recipe. (Yes, this is a Tale of Woe.)

All rye bread recipes make it clear that good rye is not a quick thing. It’s eight hours at the low end, two days at the average. It’s not high-maintenance, just time-intensive.

The night before, I set up the sour, which is basically the rye flour and the yeast (and a few other things) set up to ferment. I didn’t have caraway seeds, but they were supposed to be here.


And the next day, it looked like this:


And from there, you add the rest of the ingredients and treat it like any other bread. Which in theory is pretty straightforward and I’ve made plenty of bread so there should have been nothing wonky from this point on.

Except after setting up the loaf for the second rise, I wound up constantly distracted and unable to pay even cursory attention.


This was the last point at which the bread was under proper management.

The mistakes were pretty simple. (1) I let it rise too long because I started to preheat the oven when it should have been going in. (2) I didn’t slash the top. (3) I was going to make the cornstarch wash so that it would develop a proper rye bread crust, but I totally forgot. Taken each on their own, would have most likely had no effect. Taken together, well…


The good news is that it tasted good and had excellent rye bread texture. That might have been the only good news. But it’s not inedible, so it’s hardly a disaster. Just a culinary mishap hopefully not to be repeated.


curried lentils and sweet potatoes with swiss chard


Deb took lovely pictures when she prepared this. I… did not. This is not a dish that gets much in the way of presentation points. But it is tasty and it is easy.


I’ve made this before, but not since last winter, so I started cutting the sweet potatoes as if they would be ultimately blended. I did better on the second one.

You’ll notice the beet greens on the side; I thought I might need them to supplement the chard, since it was a small bunch. That’ll be really funny in a couple of photos.


I know it’s easy enough to make your own garam masala. But Kalustyan’s is right there.


This is around when I remembered that there’s a reason I usually make this in the bigger pot. There’s a way to get a pound of chard into that pot, but it’s not pretty.


This is not a pound of chard. It’s somewhat less than a pound, which is why I thought I’d need beet greens. Heh.

As you can see from the top photo, the chard quickly reduces down to almost nothing and, if you size correctly in the first place, this is a satisfying one-pot dish. It freezes extremely well and, pre-portioned out, makes excellent lunches – just reheat and go.

My usual accompaniment is some kind of grain – rice, millet, bulgur. But I wasn’t in the mood and opted instead to go with bread. Which in turn required throwing together a quickbread, since all I had defrosted was cinnamon-raisin and that would’ve been gross.

What I got was a decent quickbread, but also a sad story of what happens when you don’t properly grease a pan. Even a glass pan.


It looks pretty gorgeous from the outside.


It has a decent crumb and good rise for quick bread. It’s got cumin and coriander in it, so it’s got a bit of a tint.

But something went very, very wrong. I couldn’t get it out of the pan without destroying the loaf – it stuck to the bottom in one spot and not all of the wiggling in the world would get it free. And so if you flip around this acceptable loaf around, you get this sadness:


I got a nice crispy, crunchy shell of crust and then one naked butt of a bread. The damage is actually to about half of the loaf, which got repurposed (except for the crust, which got eaten straightaway).

Is an open-faced calzone still a calzone?


Occasionally, on Friday evenings when I don’t come home ravenous and willing to eat the first thing I reach for in the fridge, I like to make pizza. It’s rarely proper pizza – either by NYC standards or, you know, anyone’s standards. It’s more often whatever veggies I have that’ll work, onion, and whatever cheese is to hand on top of dough. I do occasionally make pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but not often.

This wasn’t made on a Friday, nor is it really pizza.


An unnecessarily artsy shot of leeks and red pepper in my new skillet, plus the dough rising in the rear. I really have used this skillet for something other than onion-related items.

I tend to partially sauté whatever vegetables I’m using and then just throw everything in the oven long enough for the dough to cook and the cheese to melt.


I use the same dough recipe as a base, but sometimes I futz with the types of sugar and fat. I think I used honey and shortening this time. No matter what, though, this is a reliable, flexible, forgiving multi-grain dough that’ll work for calzones or flatbread or whatever. It makes less than a pound, which is good for when you’re not interested in making a large pizza.


The folded bits popped up a little; this isn’t the right dough to make a galette; I’m not sure why I decided to fold it over. The cheeses – freshly-grated parmesan and fresh mozzarella – melted nicely. I’m remembering to cut the fresh mozzarella small enough to sprinkle, since you can’t really grate it.


I did not use the Pizza Wheel of Doom on this.

raisin-cinnamon bread


The things we do for love.

I got The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for Chanukah this year (yay!) and while I want to make pretty much everything in it, this one ended up being first. I’m not a huge fan of raisin-cinnamon bread, but a certain two-year-old of my acquaintance is and my not-so-secret plan to buy his lifelong affection through constant association of me and treats at this early stage requires this step.

How committed am I to this plot? This committed:


I’ve never had margarine in the house, let alone this stuff. I even passed up making sugar cookies for Christmas because that would have required buying shortening. And yet there I was, all for a miniscule amount that probably could have been replaced by butter with no great loss.

(Okay, I finally gave up and got shortening after having to turn down a request to make sugar cookies and coming across a few recipes that required it. But it sounds more dramatic the other way.)

rcb_raisins Part of my future cooking plans is to use my scale more often; I use it now, but mostly for items that can’t be measured any other convenient way – say, when I’m breaking off hunks of chocolate to use. I used it about half of the time with this recipe, which might explain how things turned out.

Anyway, there are a lot of raisins in this.


The dough going down for its nap.


On the other side.


Was not kidding about the raisins.


I was a little dubious about this being two full loaves; the recipe calls for half the flour of my usual two loaves of sandwich bread and for slightly smaller bread pans than these. Reinhart suggests a couple of alternate methods of cinnamon-sugar delivery and so I did one loaf in each style. Not that you can tell from this picture, but the loaf on the right has a light dusting of cinnamon-sugar rolled into it – less than half of the suggested amount, since I didn’t want to overdo it.

I ended up putting them in the oven after the recommended time for the second rise, but not at a height I was really happy about, difference in pan size aside. I hoped for some decent oven spring, but mostly I knew it was getting late in the evening and I didn’t want to be up all night with these.


There wasn’t much of any oven spring, but they came out respectably for a first attempt anyway. The swirled one is on the left and the one on the right got a dusting of cinnamon-sugar on top of melted butter right out of the oven. Like this:


I think the interior swirl works better from both a taste and handling perspective. Especially since I freeze half-loaves.

All in all, much better than any commercial offering and I have a decent sense of what I can maybe do next time, short of getting smaller bread pans. I feel confident offering up my next batch to my favorite toddler.

oatmeal quickbread


Best you see the ‘after’ first, since the before would not exactly excite you about baking this bread.

Recipe from here, reproduced faithfully with the exception that I added an extra quarter cup of un-ground oats, an extra half-tablespoon of honey, and I let it sit twenty minutes or so before dropping it on to the sheet for baking — it comes out goopy and you have to let the solids absorb some of the liquids before trying to work with it.

This is not bread-bread. This is quickbread, which I find to have very limited uses. But this version works excellently as breakfast toast. I’ve been having it with the aforepictured cranberry-raisin confit and with orange marmalade and it’s quite nice. Good for a weekend breakfast supply. Also, it can hang out on its side without covering, as it is very moist.

Right, so all that good stuff out of the way, what it looks like before:



You’re supposed to spend Yom Kippur thinking about important things. And I do. But I also spend a little time thinking about what I can’t do — eat. This year was perhaps worse than usual in terms of the food fantasizing.

I don’t know why I opted for pizza, but I spent most of the chazzan’s repetition for mussaf putting this one together in my head. Once home and napped, I put up the dough (my usual, courtesy of Culinary in the Country) and took care of the zucchini before heading back for the rest of services.

I’ve actually never used this side of the box grater before. Dad won’t let me get a mandoline (“You live alone; there’d be nobody to take you to the ER when you cut your finger off.”) and maybe I needed to be low enough on blood sugar to even consider it with the box grater. Nevertheless, all fingers were accounted for after this. Also, I was good and did not nibble.

My spray bottle of balsamic let me give these a spritz without drowning them and then a little pepper and then into the fridge.

I grabbed my basil during the day, since the back porch light doesn’t work and fetching herbs in the dark is No Fun. I took the artful photo, stuck the cup in the fridge, and went and back off to shul for minchah and neilah.

Back home again a few hours later, after a quick nosh and glug, it was time to assemble the rest of the pizza.

If there was an obvious fault with the pizza, it was that there was a skewed dough-to-stuff ratio. I only had the one slender zucchini, but I probably could have used another onion. On the other hand, the taste balance came out fine.

Sauteed with very little butter and a splash of dry vermouth. Very hard to leave them alone while getting everything else ready.

I’m still working on the ’round’ concept.

I gave it a par-bake and then started with the onions, then the zucchini.

Fresh shaved asiago and then the chiffonaded basil and then back into the oven.

It doesn’t look like much, but it was very tasty. Everything played off each other very well toppings-wise and the crust was properly firm on the bottom.

Not bad for an idea born of sheer hunger and idle thoughts.

lahmejune, after a fashion

There’s a fabulous little Ararat bakery near my home that I haven’t been to in years for no good reason. They sell, among other wonders, excellent flatbread and fantastic lahmejune. However, lahmejune really isn’t very hard to make, even if mine isn’t yet as good as theirs.

I was going to use this recipe, but for some reason I completely blanked on the fact that my tamarind paste is on the top shelf of the fridge door, all the way on the right. I don’t use it very often and I forgot it was there. And so I went with Plan B, which is more Turkish than Armenian, but still tasty. Of course, I had to make adjustments here, too, since I didn’t have any tomato and I was using beef and not lamb. I dug out some of the tomato paste I’d frozen a couple of days previous; there was nothing to be done about the provenance of the meat.

The results were quite tasty, although somewhat lacking in salt. I hate it when no amount is specified and taste-testing before cooking is unfeasible. I think I put maybe a teaspoon in, but maybe not. Or maybe that simply wasn’t enough.

The dough I followed to the letter ingredient-wise, but I did my own thing combinatorially and it came out fine. The key here is to get it rolled out very thinly. Ideally, it’s supposed to be a proper shape, too, but I was not being fussy.

This was the first pair; I was neater for the second.

Lahmejune, after a fashion

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1.75 cups flour + more for kneading
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
7 ounces lean ground beef
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

For the dough: the recipe directions are for doing it by hand, but I just used the KitchenAid for the first step. You want the water to be ~110-120F, but after that it’s adding your wets to your drys.

Let rest 15 minutes, knead for 1-2 minutes, then let rest covered for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to as high as it gets.

The recipe suggests parchment paper for lining, but I didn’t bother; it’s not necessary if you’re using nonstick. If you’re not using nonstick, then parchment paper or a quick spritz of spray grease.

Combine all ingredients for the ‘filling.’ Use your hands to mix; it’s not only easier, it’s more fun.

Take your risen dough and divide it in quarters, letting the four balls rest covered for 15 minutes to make them easier to work with. (If they’re too elastic during the rolling-out, just let ’em sit for a little longer.)

Roll out each ball into a round or an ovoid (or not) as thinly as you can get while still being able to transfer it to the baking sheet. Thinner than pizza — 1/8th inch if you can swing it.

Slather one quarter of the meat mixture on to each dough base. I found a spatula immensely helpful here. You want to make sure the meat adheres to the dough — two becoming one, not resting on top.

Bake 15-20 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is) until the bread is nicely browned.

Let cool long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth and enjoy.