Buns

The word certainly has different connotations depending on where you are from. Where I grew up, buns are soft, white, puffy…bread. A bun is not a slice of bread, it is your own, individual round with lots of golden crust and a tender interior. Buns are best the first day they are made, slightly warm with fresh unsalted butter, but I usually keep some in the freezer just in case. They make wonderful sandwich buns- meatloaf, or chicken salad are a beautiful complement to the tender, yielding crumb. Buns are a staple in my family, and though we aren’t in Midwest anymore, buns are the bread that brings us back to the wheat plains of Minnesota. My mother still talks about the ethereal yeast buns her Scandinavian grandma Cora made. I’ll never match Cora’s- no one could- but just as my grandma and mother made this version of buns, so do I. The recipe is my mother’s…but each bun-maker will add their own touch.I have made this recipe so many times that I always think I know it by heart…until I forget a key ingredient. So now I always look at this deceptively simple recipe before I start.

The Buns…Pre-Oven

The Buns…Pre-Oven

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IMG_1383 In a gluten-free, sugar-free, reduced sodium, and trans-fat policed nation, these white flour buns may be the most sinful carbohydrate to ever meet your mouth. Mmmm. Those Northlanders know what they’re doing.

1 1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. shortening
1 egg
2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups (approximately) flour
1 packet active dry yeast

Mix ingredients together as for a standard yeast bread; proof yeast in water. Mix to make a soft, pliant dough. Let proof covered for 2 hours.Form into buns, lightly rolling in flour if too sticky. Place on greased pan and let rise covered with saran wrap or tea towel until light finger imprint no longer remains on risen bun. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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Apples And Sauce

I have a confession to make. I love simple food. The tastes I experienced as a child are still some of my favorite things to eat today.

When I was growing up, we went on a school field trip to a local apple orchard. I was so excited by the apple trees, sorting house, baskets of apples, and the apple cider we were given at the end of the tour, I convinced my parents to go to the orchard. And they did, and we brought apples and cider back home. The apples were turned into pies and the apples into homemade applesauce, peeled by hand and put into our giant aluminum stockpot also used for vegetable soup in the winter. A little sugar and spices, and we were enjoying the essence of autumn.

This week I had a spare hour and looked in the refrigerator. I saw a net bag of Granny Smith apples, unopened. I purchased them and planned to bring them for lunch.  A noble plan that never materialized. Along with a few odds and ends of Gala apples and miniature Pippins that would doubtless end up in the trash if I didn’t Do Something. I decided to make applesauce, and got out my fabulous Amish apple peeler which peels and cores apples in one magical fell swoop. This time I added apple cider to the sliced apples, to increase the apple goodness. In 45 minutes the apples and cider were transformed into a lovely mass of goodness. A few tablespoons of sugar, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. I was back in the apple orchard with one bite.ImageImageImage

 

Cake And Bread

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When Marie Antoinette cried, “Let them eat cake,” it is said the French word she used was brioche, the pillowy, egg and butter-rich long-rising yeast dough traditionally made in a tinned and fluted brioche mold with a topknot of dough. This insult, telling her starving and displeased subjects to enjoy a luxurious hybrid between bread and cake, was a galling choice of words.

Speaking for myself bread and cake are two of my favorite things in life. This rustic baguette was made simply and quickly using a dough of:
¾ cup water
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup graham wheat flour
3 Tbsp. rye flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp active dry yeast

My 10-minute secret: the bread machine’s dough only setting. Let technology do the hard work for you. When ready to form divide dough in two pieces; roll in baguette shapes, slash, and let rise covered in saran on an oiled pan for 30-40 minutes. Bake at 425 deg. For about 30 minutes.

Lemon cake…divine. Easter treat enjoyed by all.

What happened to the soup? …And Split Pea Memories

ImageupImageThe split pea soup was a success. It is a tried and true that I co-opted from my Mom’s Better Homes and Gardens vintage cookbook. My only change is to soak the peas in chicken broth and I add potato, diced. Oh, and I can’t find ham bones (or maybe I don’t want to) so I just add some nice ham steak. Oh yeah, and no marjoram. That sounds weird. I don’t like to write things down. I ate this all week for dinner, and it probably cost $4.00 to make a big pot of this soup

I first fell in love with split pea soup in  foggy, wet Ventura, Ca. one winter. I went to  a local restaurant practically every day for lunch and prayed this would be the soup of the day after first having it…it wasn’t often on the menu, but it was always served by an angry young man that resented his lot in life. I can’t blame him, but I remember him and the soup fondly. This is my effort to re-create it.

What happened to my chicken soup? That’s the beauty of poached chicken breasts. They became chicken salad, because I never made it to the grocery store to buy matzo meal for my matzo ball soup. Next time. I always promise myself!

 

Comfort

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In a world full of inauthenticity and Madison Avenue sales pitches, “More, better, bigger!” I’ve decided my soul is crying out for something genuine, solid, and real. There is something lovely about staying in your PJ’s on a Sunday and doing something in the kitchen. Today I’m longing for comfort. Exhausted by a weekend seminar class and the relentless presence of people, noise, and irritation at the world, I’ve decided to retreat into my cave and poach chicken breasts and make split pea soup. How far along I will proceed will be determined as the day goes on. Photos to follow.