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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Rye, Straight Up

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This foggy Sunday just begs for a hearty teatime treat. With one last cup of dark rye flour left over from testing the recipe for Pecan Sablés in Luane Kohnke’s Ancient Heritage Cookies (available from your favorite on-line bookseller), I baked  a half-dozen of Taste of Home’s Raisin Rye Muffins. Rustic in look and flavor, they’re a refreshing change, more savory than sweet. I don’t want to say they hit the spot because they’re not heavy at all, just chewy and full of that sharp rye tang. I’d call them “husky.” Great for breakfast with a bowl of yogurt or for lunch with a bowl of soup. I had to stop myself from scarfing down a few, so I can enjoy them all week. The forecast for tomorrow has a Scandinavian feel about it.

beth-in-norway

On the Norwegian fjords

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Life in Carl Larsson Land

larsson breakfast table

If the Scandinavians can build Legoland, why don’t they create Carl Larssonland? I’d be there in an instant! Isn’t his world absolutely gorgeous?

another carl larsson room

What brought this on, you might ask? It’s another in a long slog of gray, freezing, snowy mornings. I’m trying to warm it up with Finnish Rye Scones for breakfast and I couldn’t help but dream of his uniquely cheerful interiors. If anyone knew how to make the winter warmer, it was Larsson.

I’m recipe-testing for Luane Kohnke again. She’s the author of Sassy Cookies and an absolutely terrific recipe developer. I had to buy rye flour for my first recipe (some heavenly pecan-rye sablés) and I wondered if it would make a nice scone. I found this recipe from Finnish Food Girl. Healthy, hearty, and highly recommended!

Hard to tear myself away from my own warm kitchen and my corgi Grace, but the prospect of another scone for lunch with homemade mushroom-barley soup makes the commute seem less daunting. DSC01823

 

 

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Breakfast très riche!

A gray Saturday in December calls for something hot and satisfying.

Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mini Quiches

Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mini Quiches

Whenever I see cookbooks for “meals” made in a muffin tin, I want to ask, “And what will everyone else be eating?” I did manage to limit myself to two of these this morning. Wow, are the flavors concentrated!

The one problem with these is the pastry crust which is delicious, but…

Simple pâte brisée: flour, salt, butter, ice water

Simple pâte brisée: flour, salt, butter, ice water

I never make each cut-out large enough. They shrink a lot when they pre-bake. It’s not easy to get these out of the cups of the muffin tin, but a lot of Pam and a large spoon make them presentable. However they look out of the tin, close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine yourself in a French country café.

Pastry for six muffin-size quiches

½ plus 1/8 cup unbleached flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in pieces

3 tablespoons cold water

Combine the flour and salt; add the butter and use your fingers to work the butter in until the mixture is crumbly.  Add 3 tablespoons cold water and combine with a fork until the dough holds together. Knead lightly and roll thin-ish.

Coat the muffin tin with Pam.

Cut six circles of dough larger than the tops of the cups in your muffin tin and place each circle loosely inside. Prick the bottoms and sides and bake at 400° for 5 minutes. When the pastry is done, reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Filling

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Mozzarella cheese

Sun-dried tomatoes

Basil

Combine the eggs, milk, s&p, and a good shake of basil in a bowl and whisk well. Drop a pinch of mozzarella and a few sun-dried tomatoes into each cup of the muffin tin and pour in liquid. Your pastry may have shrunk down the sides, but you can still fill the cups near the top (the eggs will set). Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

 

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Corn Season

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I’ve had a lot of cinnamon apple teacake this week for breakfast, so on a brisk, quintessential fall day, I want something savory for breakfast. As usual, my favorite baking book writer Lauren Chattman comes to the rescue with Cornmeal & Cheddar Cheese Muffins. Skip on over to Bring Back Home Ec for the recipe and step-by-step photos. These satisfying small bites are as crisp as the air outside.

Handmade wreath courtesy of my talented neighbor Wilma Epstein.

Handmade wreath courtesy of my talented neighbor Wilma Epstein.

 

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The Bread of Life

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining section was devoted to bread: how to make your own flavored bread crumbs, tips for perfect toast, the edgier bakers and their exquisite loaves, and so much more. A keeper because of the recipe for whole wheat English muffins, something I’ve been dying to bake since we sold The Model Bakery Cookbook at The Good Cook.

model bakery cookbook

Since I’ve met and enjoyed Melissa Clark who wrote the recipe for the Times, I’ll give hers a try soon.

My history with bread is probably the model of anyone born in the mid-twentieth century. It starts with Wonder Bread, in my case, two puffy slices with Underwood deviled ham inside. Loved the stuff!

underwood deviled hame Every Sunday, we had Thomas’ English muffins with our scrambled eggs and bacon.

I finally had a decent slice of bread when I went to Paris during my junior year abroad. Even the low-rent B&B I stayed in served a nice baguette with butter and jam. The tuna niçoise sandwich I had every night for dinner from a cart on the street put all American versions to shame.

french boy with bread

Photograph by Willy Ronis

I’m still learning to bake yeast breads; it’ll be a totally enjoyable lifelong pursuit. And think of all the slices I’ll have to sample to learn about crumb, crust, and taste–gosh, what an ordeal!

array of breads

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The Benefits of a Meat-Free Friday

My Lenten sacrifices–well, sacrifice, singular–are pretty paltry, I’ll admit: eat no meat on Fridays. It’s no sacrifice at all, really. Last night, I made from scratch–pastry and all–an onion-red pepper-Monterey Jack quiche. Leftovers for breakfast! Hot or cold, quiche is one of nature’s most satisfying dishes.

P.S. More on this easy-peasy pastry later…thank you, Beth Howard, author of the new pie-making primer, Ms. American Pie.

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Rx for a Dreary Day

The skies don't even have the decency to send down some snow.

The skies don’t even have the decency to send down some snow.

I’m not complaining, mind you; I love to spend the day at home. It’s the perfect time to muck about in the kitchen. The only thing for weather like this is to turn on your favorite music and bake.

Not an expert bread baker, I'm trying French bread out of Taste of Home.

Not an expert bread baker, I’m trying French bread out of Taste of Home’s original big cookbook from Deanna Nalvar of Temple, Texas.

I spied a beautiful jar of Black Cherry Jam in my fridge this morning, so French bread seems like just the recipe to play with. So far, so good, but the proof is in the rising.

DSC01980Success!

DSC01981Sometimes I’m sad that I didn’t get started baking and cooking much earlier in life, but then on days like this, I’m so glad I’m not jaded and seeing a simple thing like dough rise is still such a thrill (OK, I’ve got to get out more).

The only creature to whom this wondrous process is more thrilling is Grace who is being driven wild by the smell of yeast. After two more rises… it’s in the oven.

DSC01983Ah, the smell and the reassuring hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the loaf.

DSC01984No complaints, but “French” is not the adjective I’d use for this. It’s still got a lovely texture, not as a crunchy or airy as a traditional baguette.

So, that’s my dreary day’s adventure in the kitchen, ready in time for my favorite lunch of bread, cheese, sausage and pickles.

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Winnie the Pooh on Breakfast

For a project I’m embarking on this New Year, I’m re-reading classic English children’s books. I forgot how perfect Winnie-the-Pooh is. A.A. Milne is so completely right in his depiction of how children think and act; so evocative of the unspoiled beauty of the English countryside; absolutely spot-on about English manners…. It’s no wonder this has cemented itself on the bookshelf of enduring children’s literature. The best always deliver as much pleasure to an adult re-reading them as they did “when we were very young.”

What does this have to do with breakfast? In the last chapter, as Pooh and Piglet are walking and talking, this gem of simple wisdom is exchanged:

“‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’

‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’

‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.”

As I devoured this exquisitely told story on Sunday, I got such a craving for honey!

I am never going to see Pooh any other way than as Ernest H. Shepard conceived him.

I am never going to see Pooh any other way than as Ernest H. Shepard conceived him.

I have always wanted to experiment with making one muffin at a time because I hate days-old muffins and yet I can’t bear to throw them out.

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This is a cornmeal-cheddar cheese muffin waiting for its rendezvous with G&T Farm honey. Hot, fresh, and delicious! I made the batter this morning and so the test really comes tomorrow when I make another singleton.

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Easy Quiche Breakfast

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These crustless quiches couldn’t be quicker to make…and eat (I put the camera down and devoured one of these on the spot, save a little dollop for Gracie). They come out of the oven puffed up like a soufflé; that doesn’t last but a minute. Still, they’re light and rich at the same time. Without a crust you can indulge a little with your side carb; I had a piece of buttered rye toast, but a brioche would be divine.

Butter two ramekins. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Divide one slice of cooked, crumbled bacon and 1/4 cup shredded cheese between the two ramekins.

Beat one egg with 3 1/8-cups of heavy cream (you can use any strength milk you like, but skim milk will make these pretty skimpy). Season to taste with s/p and any other herb or seasoning you like. Divide the egg mixture between the two ramekins; pour until each ramekin is 3/4 full.

Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Bon appétit!

french beret

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Guten Morgen!

The snow is coming down gently in giant fluffy flakes this morning, so a fresh-baked pretzel seemed like a good idea.

I had a good bit of dough left from Thursday morning’s pretzel adventure, so I twisted off two pieces, rolled, twisted, poached, and baked them with two different toppings: Parmesan cheese and cinnamon-sugar.

Why choose sweet or savory when you can have both?

Why choose sweet or savory when you can have both?

Deliciously yeasty, these are not as heavy as a bagel and more substantial than a pastry. I wouldn’t want to make a habit of this, but they’re fun and easy to turn out and make a nice change. The yield of the recipe below says 24, but I could easily make 36 from the dough it produced.

You’ll find the recipe, from Country Living’s December 2013 issue, right here. Guten Appetit!

 

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