lucky dog treats

January 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

If you like making cookies or biscotti and have a dog(s) in your family, you’ll love making doggy biscotti! As heart warming as making chocolate chip cookies for your children, and no worries about raids on the cookie jar! Here you see the biscotti lined up for their second bake to dry; they take up less room this way and no turning over needed (a double batch). Two views of Hana’s cookie jar, one filled with the fresh-baked biscotti and one with Hana waiting in the background.

Here’s the recipe I use. It’s very flexible, so feel free to substitute various flours, seeds, herbs, chopped veggies or fruits, even leftovers. Adjust the amount of flour or liquid towards the end of mixing to make a fairly stiff dough. Unless your dog needs a GF (gluten-free) diet, I recommend some wheat flour (either white or whole) to make the dough easier to shape and stay together. Just remember that dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate, onion, grapes or raisins.

DOGGY BISCOTTI (Yields 1 sheet pan full)

1 cup whole or white wheat flour

1 cup oat or barley flour

1/3 cup rye flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

2 oz. fat (room temp butter, peanut butter, oil, etc.)

2-3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin, yogurt, or other liquid ingredient

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream the fat if it is solid, add the eggs and mix until blended. Add your liquid ingredient(s) and mix on low speed until a stiff dough comes together, adjusting with a little more liquid or flour if needed. Divide the dough in half, shape into logs and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Flatten the logs so they are less than 1/2 inch tall and somewhat even in height and width (length doesn’t matter). Bake at 325°F for 30 minutes or until firm and starting to brown. Turn the oven down to 250°F. Let the logs cool until just warm (15-20 minutes), then slice with a serrated knife into 1/4-1/2 inch wide biscotti. Place back onto the same parchment-lined pan and bake until dry, up to an hour. Turn off the oven and leave the pan in the oven overnight. You want the biscotti bone-dry, so that they will keep well and have a good crunch.



January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Only 9 more days to the last chemo!

It’s a year ago, in January 2011, when I notice a little bit of “spotting”. Since I’m well past menopause, this isn’t normal but it doesn’t alarm me. Actually, it should have. It sporadically continues on and off; then the spotting turns to blood. OK, the alarm bells go off and I call my doctor right away, on my birthday June 21st. I had let it go almost six months and feel pretty bad about that. My doctor recommends I go straight to an OB/GYN; I don’t even have one–that’s how healthy and carefree I felt then. I get my referral (I’m in the Kaiser HMO network) and meet my new gynecologist a few days later. He performs an endometrial biopsy in the office (ouch!) and I go home to wait for results. A couple of days later, his nurse calls me with “inconclusive results”, so I set up an appointment for a recheck. This time when I go in, I’m bleeding again, so I think “good, Dr.L will be able to figure out what’s going on”. Dr. L tells me that there were only cervical cells on the first biopsy and no endometrial tissue, so we have to repeat the procedure. This time with a little more vigor shall I say. Anyways (ouch! ouch!), I go back home and wait again. A few more days pass, and the doctor calls. He tells me that the pathology shows

Atypical cells. So what does this mean for me?

Hana wonders… I keep busy, stay busy… the garden comforts… We wait…

10CC (10 day chemo countdown)

January 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

No, not the band 10cc (but I listened to their music in my college days). The title of this post means, HURRAY, I’ll have my last chemotherapy infusion, February 9th, 2012! Since I haven’t up to now, I want to journal my cancer experience over the next ten days in some of my posts. But there’ll be plenty of baking and fun along the way too.

My stats: female, 59, Asian, small stature and build, always lived in the southwestern US (southern California, New Mexico, Colorado), college-educated, married twice, two children, white collar professions except for eight years more recently in restaurants and bakeries, last full-time job in 2010 as culinary pastry instructor, light inconsistent exerciser (6 months of hot yoga in my hey day, mostly dog walks and gardening now), “healthy” diet (that’s hard to define these days), maintained a good weight, wore sunscreen and hats, no family history of cancer except possibly one grandfather (unconfirmed stomach cancer). I kept up with my well checks including blood work, pap smears, stool checks, and once I passed fifty, annual mammograms, a bone density test or two, a sigmoidoscopy (I’m due for a colonoscopy now). I thought i led a healthy life.

“Why do I have cancer?”

Happy eggs from Happy chickens

January 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

The North Fork Valley on Colorado’s Western Slope is a quiet scenic agricultural gem with a mining heritage. I had to cut my visits short last summer when I started cancer treatments, but the friends I had met over the past few years there made sure I got a few care packages over the fall and winter. They sent earthy nourishing vegetables, sweet rich fruit, food friendly wines, hearth baked breads, golden comb honey, farmstead cheeses, goat milk and chèvre and the happiest eggs in the world! I’ll finish treatment early this spring, and can’t wait to get back for a visit, and then who knows? Thank You! M,K,B,G,J,K,M,W,M,S,E,J,C,S,Y,M,W for sustaining me over the winter!

See my Happy Face? I’m almost done with chemo! (Fried eggs on sautéed spicy greens and stone ground grits)

The eggs came from some young chickens called cuckoo maran. Look at the lovely deep brown and spotted eggs they lay.

Not sure who laid the cream one

need to knead?

January 28, 2012 § 3 Comments

Kneading is the process of working the dough after all or most of the ingredients are mixed together. This develops the gluten structure of yeasted (or sourdough) breads that gives them their “chew” (as opposed to the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of cakes). Without this structure, bread doughs wouldn’t be strong enough to rise during proofing or in the oven, and free form hearth-baked loaves would fall flat. In fact, getting the crumb structure you want inside of the bread is a balancing act between kneading (think of this as working time) to develop enough strength and stretch in the dough so it can rise, and the rise time (think of this as resting time) to allow the yeast to produce CO2 bubbles which gently expand the dough. If you let a dough rise (or rest) too long, the gluten strands can weaken, but you can “revive” them with a brief knead or fold-and-stretching action (called a turn) of the dough, which tightens the structure, releases the CO2 and trapped heat (both from the yeast). This is what you do when you “punch down” a dough, but don’t be too rough! Remember you want to maintain the structure and some of the airiness! Recipes tell you how many times to “punch down”, but you can do an extra turn on a weak dough (usually one that’s wet, think ciabatta), or skip it if a dough seems a bit tough or dry.

Recipes also seem to be very specific about what speed and how long you should knead. But how do you know when you have kneaded enough? And what is the difference between kneading in a bread machine, mixer, food processor, by hand or even using the “no knead” technique? If you haven’t made much bread, I suggest that you start by hand kneading so you get a feel how the dough changes from mixing the ingredients together to final gluten development. Basically the machines simply help you get the job done faster depending on their power and design for efficiently stretching the dough. I have a KitchenAid mixer which has plenty of power and is fairly well designed to knead the dough (a lot depends on the shape of the dough hook, and there’s a lot of variation in mixer attachments). Also, consider the amount of dough relative to bowl size; it has to have room to move around. Food processors have an excess of power and speed, so you need to make sure you don’t overwork the dough (use the plastic blade) or the gluten can actually break down from over mixing or from the heat that builds up from the friction of everything moving so fast. Because bread machines are designed to do everything from mix to bake, they accomplish each of those tasks modestly well, but don’t excel at any of them. They provide convenience and the smell of home-baked bread, but you won’t become a better baker using one. And how does the “No Knead” method work? You make a rough wet dough with a small amount of yeast, cover it and set it at room temperature for almost a day. The yeast and cooler temperature allows the bread to rise very slowly, which helps creates the gluten without over fermenting the dough. You do a few folds to strengthen the gluten and shape the loaf, let it proof, bake and voilá! No elbow grease needed, just need an extra day for the first rise!

Finally, kneading by hand…

Start to mix wet and dry

Partly mixed

Dough starting to come together

Rough dough ready to rest

Resting under a wrap

After 2 minutes of hand kneading

A few more minutes to finish kneading

Ready for first bulk rise

A little dried dough is easy to clean!

You know what they say about “100 ways to love a cat”. The same applies to kneading, although many bread bakers no longer use the flour dusting of the board and pushing/turning method that I originally learned. The new result is a moister, more open crumb loaf. I use a technique that is a blend of a couple of methods. Here’s an article on Dan Lepard’s way to hand knead with a good description of first resting and then kneading the dough (I omit oiling the board, instead just scraping up the bits with my bench scraper). Also a video of Richard Bertinet hand kneading with an entertaining demo of basic bread making/baking, including his folding method to knead dough. Curious, these guys are both from England, although Richard is a transplanted Frenchman. I’m sure you’ll be able to adapt their methods to create a hand kneading technique that works for you.

the dog always gets the first pancake

January 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

“Ugly Duckling” pancake

I know we shouldn’t, but since the kids moved out of the house, we spoil our “girl” something awful. Here she is, about to reap the benefits of the “First Pancake Theory”!

“Pour moi?”


“Yum! Burp.”

make good bread

January 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

On first glance, it might seemed like every bread recipe is different from every other. And yes, bread comes in an infinite variety of flavors, textures and shapes. On the one hand, bread seems so simple–just flour, water, salt and yeast. And yet, making a good loaf of bread can seem so out of reach, even for bakers who turn out cookies by the dozen and fearlessly sculpt three-layered cakes. Of course, the big difference is that bread is ALIVE!

I’m speaking of either yeasted or naturally (sourdough) leavened breads. The entire character of the bread depends on the action of the invisible creatures which foam your first yeast and water mixtures. No wonder bread making can be so frustrating and rewarding (at different times of course). Hmmm… sounds like children!

STEP 1 Measure and mix – accurately measure and combine ingredients to form a loose or shaggy dough (the flat beater works faster than the dough hook here, if you don’t mind cleaning another tool); an experienced baker can tell if the wet and dry ingredients are in balance and adjust if she needs to; otherwise follow the recipe and keep notes for the next time you make this same recipe (and you should repeat recipes!); you can cover and allow the dough to rest up to a half hour if you like at this point

“Loose” or “shaggy” dough mixed in less than a minute with the flat beater

STEP 2 Knead the dough by hand or machine – this evenly mixes all of the ingredients and develops the chewy texture (gluten) of the bread; watch the entire kneading process, and you will see the body of dough continuously change; it’s more important to watch for the changes in gluten development, than to knead for an exact amount of time; look for a smooth, but stretchy appearance of the dough; notice how some dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl in the last picture frame, important for a bread that isn’t too dry!

Switched to the dough hook, ready to knead

1-2 minutes of kneading

3-4 minutes of kneading and already done! Notice the small amount of dough that remains on the bottom of the mixer bowl

STEP 3 Let the dough rise or ferment – this first rise is also called a bulk rise, since you let the dough rise in one mass until it about doubles in size; usually room temperature or just slightly warmer works fine, but you can slow the rising by chilling; don’t place your dough in too warm of a location–it’ll be quick but you’ll compromise flavor and texture; sometimes you’ll turn or fold the dough on itself (“punch down”) to allow another rise; you’ll know the dough has finished its rise when a light poke of your finger leaves an imprint, but doesn’t deflate the risen dough

Beginning of bulk rise (smooth side up, rougher edges down in bowl)

End of bulk rise (dough still “face up”)

STEP 4 Dividing and shaping – if you’re making more than one loaf or making rolls, you’ll divide the dough into even pieces (by eye, or by weight, but don’t fuss too much about it); you may pre-shape and rest the pieces, or roll them into their final shapes.

Dough “face down” on lightly floured board

Divided in half; starting to shape

STEP 5 Proofing – refers to the rising of the shaped loaves (as opposed to the bulk rise); usually the loaves will not quite double in size, and a light finger poke on the surface will fill in slightly.

Shaped and ready to proof in buttered pans

Ready to bake (see my fingerprint in the bottom corner?)

STEP 6 Scoring or slashing the loaves – this allows the bread to fully expand in the oven (oven rise), otherwise you might end up with a loaf that is dense, or that tears itself open when it expands; if your kitchen knives are a little dull (and who’s aren’t?), keep some single-edged razor blades on hand

One dusted with flour, both scored

STEP 7 Baking – Unless the recipe calls for a fair amount of sweetener and/or fat, most breads bake best in a hot steamy oven (375°F for pan breads, 500°F for hearth-baked loaves); introducing steam into a home oven can be tricky and even dangerous; On page 126 of BWJ, this is suggested:

“You are going to have to make steam in the oven and you can do this in one of two ways. You can either throw water directly onto the floor of the oven–often a risky business if you have a gas oven– or on the heating element of an electric oven. Preheat the oven (with the skillet in place, if using it). Humidify the oven by carefully tossing 1/2 cup water onto the oven floor or into the preheated skillet.”

Or, on page 130:

“Preheat the oven. Pour some water into a spray bottle and set aside. Spray the oven walls with water and immediately close the oven door to trap the steam. Slide the bread onto the hot baking stone, and immediately spray the oven walls again; close the door as quickly as you can.”

I’ve taught bread baking to home cooks for a few years now, and it’s very difficult to mimic the steaming action of a commercial oven; plus when many loaves are baked together, they release their own steam in the baking process as well! If you use an approach similar to one of the above, just be very careful to avoid steam burns to your face, hands and arms. It is also easy to spill water on a glass door, accidentally spray the light bulb, or eventually break the electric heating element or warp the oven floor. I doubt your warranty covers these activities! I mention how I steam my home oven in the previous post “My Home Bakery”, which I think offers less risk and sufficient oven rise drama.

Just out of the oven, still in the pan

Out of the pans, cooling on the rack        Notice the contrast of the flour dusting

Be sure the bottom is browned too!

STEP 8 Cooling – An often overlooked step, cooling allows the interior crumb of the bread to finish cooking, crusts to set and flavors to deepen. But I won’t tell!

STEP 9 Storing – Breads are best eaten just when they cool to room temperature. A simple yeasted bread will keep for a day on the bread board (keep the cut side down on the board). A sourdough loaf will keep for a couple or few days in plastic (but the crust will soften). Breads that are sweet, rich (buttery) or are moist to begin with will last longer than those that are not. If you can’t eat the whole loaf in this time frame, cut it into manageable portions and freeze. Refrigerating bread does slow molding, but drives the moisture out of the loaf, so it’s still better to freeze. A moist loaf will stand up to slicing before freezing, but will dry out faster than larger pieces of bread. Besides, the bread will be so delicious, you won’t store it for long!

Cooled, sliced and ready to eat!

STEP 10 Repeat to become a better baker!

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