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Archive for the ‘breads’ Category

Try as I might to resist, I’m getting twitchy for pumpkin. The amount of pumpkin/pumpkin spice products in the grocery stores is obnoxious and some things just have no business living in the pumpkin spice realm – check this list out. While I roll my eyes at the vast majority, there are a few things that I do love. The original, OG pumpkin spice donuts from my youth (still working on recreating those). My pumpkin bundt cake. A slice of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. They’re delicious and invoke feelings of nostalgia in a way that pumpkin spice Cheerios or Oreos do not. Inevitably, as I pass the cans of pumpkin puree on the grocery display, one will go in my cart. Maybe two. Which is exactly what happened last week.

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I love an old school, red sauce Italian joint. The menu is full old favorites: lasagne, stuffed shells, meatballs, ravioli and various things given the parmesan treatment – veal, chicken, eggplant. The fanciest thing on the menu, and probably the last update, is penne alla vodka. Salads are usually of the iceberg variety composed of crunchy lettuce with meats, cheeses and pickled pepper things served with an Italian dressing, tangy from red wine vinegar. If you’re fortunate, you’ll find my beloved 5-Finger Cavatelli on the menu too. And your meal always comes with garlic bread. Always.

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I’ve long been charmed by beer bread recipes. Mix a few ingredients with a can of beer and pop it in the oven for a quick, delicious loaf. It’s usually the first bread most people learn to make; a few ingredients, one bowl, super easy. The problem is, they rarely deliver on the delicious promise. There’s a particular mix that I’ve seen touted again and again and it’s just not good. There’s a weird chemical flavor that permeates each bite and I do not have time for that. Beer bread should be relatively easy to make, why not make one that tastes good? So I did. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I have a Guinness beer bread today, one made with whole grains and yes, some dark, delicious beer.

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For reasons that I can’t quite explain, when I’m unhappy or depressed or feeling glum, I make biscuits. I don’t come from a biscuit culture, growing up Polish in Arizona. As a kid, biscuits came from a tube and toast was the only choice for your breakfast. My other comfort foods are pierogies and Mexican food, which make sense, but also matzo ball soup which is curious I suppose. Over the years I’ve sort of appropriated the foods that are delicious and comforting, like a warm hug, regardless of their origins. Making biscuits is a task that I enjoy; forming the dough, rolling and folding much like a traditional French pastry, and baking them to a nice and golden crunch. While they’re still warm from the oven, I’ll sit down with a biscuit or two and peel off the layers, one by one, popping them into my mouth. I may do this a few times before I feel better.

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I’m drowning in dates right now and not the good kind of dates a girl would like to be drowning in. Actual dates. Dried fruits. With pits. To start, there was nearly a pound sitting on my kitchen table, leftover from a project I finished just before the holidays. Before I’d even had a chance to register their presence, I got the email from my friend Michele that appears in my inbox every January. “Hi. Got the dates. Want them?” You see, every year her financial advisor sends her, and her mother, a tin of dates from California as a holiday present. She does not know why dates. Neither she, nor her mother, like dates. However she, and her mother, do not want to hurt the guy’s feelings so they don’t tell him and every year, the dates arrive. And I get an email and a subsequent delivery of said dates. Two two-pound tins. Every year. It’s a lot of dates.

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Every year while visiting my mother for the holidays, I buy eggnog. Every year, I forget to drink it. And every year, a few days after Christmas when I’m back in Chicago, I receive a phone call from my mother that is basically this: “I TOLD you, you wouldn’t drink the damn eggnog. You NEVER drink the damn eggnog!” It’s part of our holiday tradition, though she will probably disagree. I always buy it with the best intentions. I love eggnog; I intend to drink the damn eggnog. I’m not sure what happens but the flurry of activity in those few packed days and the abundance of other things to eat and drink just seem to take over, pushing eggnog lower and lower on the hierarchy of things to consume. Besides, how could it possibly be a proper holiday without that phone call dripping with sarcasm, annoyance and an “I told you so” tone?

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As the weather cools and I can turn on the oven without heat blasting myself out of my kitchen, I get the urge to bake bread. The feel of the soft, silky dough between my hands, the long slow relaxing rises, the heady aroma that overtakes my apartment are delightful sensations that serve as a reminder to slow down. I love baking bread. I’ve made many wonderful loaves in my tiny kitchen but today I wanted something different, one particular memory that I’ve been pushing about for some time. Finnish Pulla.

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