“Some look at the world as it is,
and they ask: ‘Why?’
I look at the world,
and I ask: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a dark chocolate and peanut butter sandwich on cherry bread?
I wonder how you make cherry bread?'”
(This is a variation of my Cherry Pistachio Bread)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1/2 cup Almond Meal (optional)
- 6-7 cups, give or take, of whole wheat (3 cups) and bread flour (4+ cups)
- 1 Tbsp. Jam (preferably cherry, but today I used apricot)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Yeast (maybe 3 envelopes?)
- 1 Tbsp. Salt
- 1 Tbsp. Almond flavour
- 3/4 cup Dried Cherries
- 1 cup Chopped Almonds
- 1 Egg (you need the white)
Step 1, Wet Stuff: In a large bowl (or the mixer bowl if you plan on letting the bread hook to the heavy lifting); whisk the Jam into the warm Milk and the first half cup of warm Water. Add the dried Cherries, and set to the side.
Step 2, meanwhile, back at the yeast: in a smaller container, whisk together the remaining cup of warm Water, the Yeast, and just a smidge of the Jam. Let this sit for a few minutes (listen to a pop-song, gather the flour, begin to chop the almonds whatever you fancy), and let it start to bubble.
Step 3, mixing and proofing: Whisk the yeast mixture into the milk mixture. Next, add in the first 2 cups of flour a little bit at a time, whisking until it is smooth–I usually move from the coarsest flour to the smoothest, so the wheat flour here. Now leave this in a warm place for 5 minutes and walk away. Fold laundry, try to figure out where you put the bread flour, dance, just leave the yeast alone.
Step 4, kneading: Come back, Little Sheba. If it is bigger, and a little poofy, the yeast is doing great. If not, either you have bad yeast or a cold spot. Whisk down this living thing in the bowl, and add 1 Tbsp of Salt & 1 Tbsp Almond Flavor. Add in the Bread Flour 1/4 of a cup at a time, and thoroughly mix it in; when the whisk becomes impractical, use a big wooden spoon, when this is too hard, use a mixer with a bread hook or turn it our onto a floured surface.
It is important to knead the flour in 1/4 of a cup at a time, and after each bit of flour, hook or knead the bread until it becomes one thing again–not a mixture of flour and dough, but one unit. When the dough is a single round thing holding on to itself and not sticking to other things, behaving about like a deflated volley ball, it is ready. The amount of the flour doesn’t matter–getting it to this proper consistency is what matters. Roll it around on the counter for good measure.
Step 5, let it rise: Grease a smooth bowl 3 times as big as the dough. Roll the dough ball in the oil, and then cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel or something that will let it work without drying out. Let this sit in a warm place–in the oven with a heating pad on a different shelf, on the sunny side of the house, just a safe and warm place–until the dough has doubled in size. Usually, this will be about an hour.
Step 6, making loaves: Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and punch it down (forcefully knead it), which should reduce it to close to its original size. Separate this into 2 portions (or 3 or 4 or… you figure it out). Flatten each of these, and sprinkle with the first 3/4 cup of Almonds. Fold the dough back into itself, knead it slightly and shape each into loaves; make sure that there are not seams or spots the loaf might separate, maybe pinching loose edges and rolling it about a bit–each should be smooth and coherent–it’s own little self.
Step 7, second rising: Grease some baking sheets and sprinkle with corn meal, or grease 3 bread pans, or 2 bread pans and 2 little pans, or some such combinations. Put each loaf into a pan, slit along the top with a sharp knife (this lets bubbles out) and set these into a warm place until they have grown–usually less that the first rise. About half way through this rise (20? 25 minutes?) pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Step 8, prepping and baking: Beat together an Egg White and a little cold water. Paint the tops of the loaves with the egg white mixture, and then sprinkle with the remaining Almonds. Put the bread in the oven for 30 or 35 minutes, until the top crust is a nice dark brown. Figure out your oven, and see if you need to turn them or rotate them to get them to cook evenly.
Step 9, cool it, boy: When they are done, get them out, take them off the sheets or out of the pans, and put them on a cooling rack.
Last Step, sharing: You may have noticed I made several loaves. You can, of course, use division and figure out how to make a smaller batch, but I suggest you make more, and then figure out why you needed more. The bread might be so good that one loaf is eaten before it even cools. Break out the Brown Betty; it is perfect with some butter and a cup of tea.
Most importantly, if you have extra bread, you will have to give it away. Make a present of it and Brie to an aspiring writer and cabaret star on his 30th birthday. Give it to friends for Christmas, a House Warming or just because. As always, give it to a wandering through-hiker, a musician or a college student–all of these are good karma. You might give some to somebody you love, or whom you wish to love, or who needs to feel loved.
My mom says it is just as easy to pray for somebody while kneading bread as it is just to pray for somebody; I don’t understand prayer, but I know everybody needs to feel loved and everybody loves good bread.
Bonus Step, left-overs: It makes brilliant toast, of course. It also makes excellent French toast, bien sûr, if you like that sort of thing.
This has been a long term experiment that started back sometime in June. Although the Sauerbraten in June was good, it wasn’t great, and I went back to the drawing board. Several of the attempts were positively awful, but at last, this week, I had a batch I was fairly happy with and I ran it past my quality control friends (thanks, Meg & Rachel), who also seemed to approve.
The earliest ve3rsions of this recipe were appropriated from the Post-Punk Kitchen (http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/homemade-seitan/), which also has a new cookbook out. It took some tweaking to make it my own.
- 1 cup wheat gluten (available in boxes, but try to get it bulk; it’s cheaper)
- 3 Tbsps. nutritional (brewers) yeast
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable broth (or fake chicken broth or fake beef broth)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
For the simmering broth:
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
Fill a stock pot with the water, broth and soy sauce, cover and bring to a boil.
In the mean time, in a large bowl mix together gluten and yeast. In a smaller bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partially clumped up with the dry ingredients. Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until it’s an elastic dough. Divide into 3 equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit. Let rest until the broth has come to a full boil.
Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partially cover pot so that steam can escape. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove from broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle. Wrap it in a clean cloth (it will get stained) and wring out as much of the excess moisture as you can.
Store in refrigerator until needed.
Slice and use as desired.
editor’s note: This was a recipe from my good friend Sandy, who was quite proud of her Swedish heritage. Rusk can, in general, refer to any hard, twice-baked bread, but this is no zwieback or melba toast. This is an amazing almond rusk, or mandel skorper. Similar cookies/biscuits are found in other countries, such as the Italian biscotti or the Yiddische mandelbrodt, but I am partial to this one.
It keeps forever, travels well, and is perfectly suited to afternoon coffee or tea.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- (optional 1 tsp cardamom)
Step n a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in almonds.
- On a greased baking sheet, shape the dough into two 11-in. x 3-1/2-in. rectangles. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Carefully remove to wire racks; cool for 20 minutes.
- Transfer to a cutting board; cut with a serrated knife into 3/4-in. slices. Place cut side down on greased baking sheets.
- Bake at 325° for 10-12 minutes; turn slices over. Bake 10-12 minutes longer or until golden brown. Remove to a wire racks to cool. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.
When was the last time you heard a voice singing–in person, not a reproduction or something amplified, but a human voice? When was the last time you sang?
A few weeks ago, two heroes of mine passed away, Jean Ritchie and Ronnie Gilbert.
Ronnie Gilbert was one of the founding members of The Weavers, a folk group that was influential and then black-listed in the early 50s. Along with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman, and with the help of Alan Lomax and input from Woodie Guthrie, they sang both American and international folk music, as well as Union and labour songs. They were some of the people who influenced the Folk Revival of the 60s, which influenced me.
Jean Ritchie was an authentic Kentucky-born folk singer. She brought American folk music back to Appalachian roots music with her traditional performances of many of the old ballads that had travelled across from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the rest of Britain.
There is a great deal I love about folk music, but today I would like to focus on what is perhaps the most important quality it has: It is the everyday person’s music. It can belong to any of us. I dearly love Yo Yo Ma playing Bach, or Jessye Norman singing Wagner, but these are the tasks of demi-gods few of us can hope to follow. The melody of a folk tune is one which almost anybody can sing, and then can learn a little more challenging harmonies. They are words which anybody can learn, even if the complex lyrics like Finnegan’s Wake can be a little harder.
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was a love for music. They are each amazingly talented, but most of all they loved music. Since dad was a preacher, we all learned to sing in church in 4-part harmony. We also sang grace at every meal. But they also sang around the house or around the piano. Most of all, when we would be driving home from a long trip at night–and my dad loved to drive–they would sing together in harmony, and that’s how we kids learned to sing as well. I was the smallest, and usually in the back, or even in the hatch, and some of my fondest and safest memories were listening to them sing in the front of the car.
We learned a lot of folk songs from them. Where have all the Flowers Gone?, Puff the Magic Dragon, Turn, Turn, Turn, as well as show tunes and standards. I continue to hum or whistle of even sing out loud whenever I can. I had a job a while back which involved an early stocking shift before the store opened, and my friend Rachel and I would sing Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash and what-ever else suited our fancy. One of my great prides in parenting is how many songs I taught my daughter, who says that I have a voice that makes anybody feel like they can sing.
And anyone can!!!!!
Sing to say what you cannot say! Singing for joy or to express our sadness, or just to pass the time away is a rare gift. The blues, the agony, the ecstasy, the longing, the loneliness, the peace—all of these are bubbling down deep within you and waiting to be expressed.
Sing to remember who you are and what you love! Singing opens up something inside of us that makes us more like who we really are than anything else. No other human being, no nightingale or lark, no violin or glockenspiel has your unique voice. It might not be the prettiest, but it is yours, and it can be your fun.
Sing because it’s beautiful! The world is full of beauty, but singing–even if you do it really poorly–allows you to touch and to be part of that beauty, that joy, that infinite and immediate wonder which is music. It is so rooted in the earth, so material, such a matter of vibrations and modulations, but it is also so sublime. Music immerses us in our senses and sensations, but moves us out of subjective feeling. It is the world and it is transcendence.
So when was the last time you sang?
You’re alone now, wasting time reading a blog, just you and your electronic device….why don’t you sing now?
It has been a while.
The Bistro has still not reopened. I have been catering, roofing, painting, landscaping, and anything else I can. Percy has gone to visit relatives back home in the Falklands for their winter. Anno is ghostwriting, editing and translating on-line, where nobody knows you are a mouse. Wode Toad has disappeared.
VERY, VERY, VERY FUNNY!
This production updates the setting, but retains the great script, and the cast speaks it so naturally that it is really easy to understand. It’s a great young cast–exciting and energetic and with a wonderful sense of comedy timing.
In the history of theater, Benedick & Beatrice are the emperor & empress of snark, and Hannah Swayze & Nathaniel Couper do them justice.
Five more performance:
Sunday, May 17 at 2 p.m.
Friday, May 22 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 23 at 2 p.m and at 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 24 at 2 p.m.
I SAW GIRAFFES!!!
Rachel, a friend of mine and one of the most wonderful people I know, took me to a zoo–Brights Zoo in Limestone Tennessee, in fact. We walked around and saw all sorts of animals–mostly animals from Savannahs, since the climates are similar in summer, as is the grazing. It is still a bit chilly in the mornings here, so it wasn’t until the second time around the park, when the sun came out, that many of the animals came outside.
Going around the corner, I couldn’t speak; there, standing in a paddock, were 3 giraffes!
Everybody has that special thing–a blanket or stuffed animal–that was their special little security thing when they are little. Mine was Giraffe. He was a medium sized stuffed giraffe (that’s how he got the name). When I was 7, we moved 3979 miles, across the Atlantic. I had my pillow and Giraffe. He was a good listener and a reassuring friend, and he could be flipped over and used as a machine gun when flying over France trying to shoot down Eddie Rickenbacker. I don’t think I have ever lived anywhere without him.
I have seen giraffes at zoos before, but generally from a distance. I was able to stand up on a platform eye to eye. They are graceful and very tall. They are a little mischievous, and have a purple tongue that is almost 2 feet long. They are quiet, mostly because breathing all that way can be rough, but can make moaning or bleating noises. I have a friend who once followed a herd (a tower? who comes up with these things?!?) on a motorcycle to see what noise they made, but apparently they have non-verbal ways of saying “what’s with the creeper on the motorcycle?” because they stayed quiet. And they have huge beautiful eyes with long eyelashes.
I think I just stood there with my mouth open for 5 minutes, unable to speak (really unusual for me). Honestly, I felt like dancing around and squealing, but at my age that is difficult to pull off. Rachel bought a carrot for me to feed to him. All the rest of the day I was saying “I saw a giraffe!!!” to anyone who would listen.
Life has had its ups and downs lately, but for just one moment, I couldn’t ask for more. The sun was shining, and I was hanging out with a good friend and with giraffes. What more could you want?