Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

The Hair Dream

Grilled Semolina Flatbread with Onion Yogurt Dip

Grilled Semolina Flatbread with Onion Yogurt Dip

There’s a theatrical legend that tells of a great actor’s ability to milk applause from the audience. (I don’t remember which actor the legend describes.) Supposedly he would appear for his curtain call and milk the applause by slowly pacing from one side of the stage to another, giving his rapt attention and breathless thanks to each section of the audience. As he did this he would make note of which section’s applause seemed to be subsiding, and place his body in front of them “surprised” and “moved” by their adulation.

Overall, a good technique, and perhaps something we should all try to adapt or emulate in our own humble worlds. Why not? It’s a big tough world, and I say take all the applause and adulation you can find, no matter what the source, even for the smallest accomplishments. To that end, I am introducing something never before seen in a blog: the applause sign, something previously seen only by TV studio audiences and next to Donald Trump’s mirrors. As you read the following blog you will occasionally see [APPLAUSE] which is your cue to stop and applaud a particularly pithy thought , or me.


I’ve been thinking of this recently because this is the time of year when that firm grip so many folks may have had on accomplishing their New Year’s resolutions has begun to slip. Yes, your gym may be more crowded during the month of January, but like the old adage about New England weather, if you don’t like it, give it a minute.

In the meantime give yourself a huge round of applause for anything you may have accomplished since 12:00AM, January 1st. Finally put away your Christmas tree? You are a star! [APPLAUSE]

Me? I reached my first goal of the new year. I’m extremely proud and have been spending far too much time patting myself on the back. Clearly it’s time for a reward.

Oh, uh, what was my goal? My goal was to make a resolution. I’ve never done that before. This is not to say that I don’t consider myself a candidate for self-improvement (far from it). I have simply never before left resolutions for the end of the year. My usual M.O. is to make them throughout the year. Naturally this means I also fail (and succeed) at them throughout the year.

I know, I know: you’re thinking, “Making a resolution to make a resolution is cheating.” Perhaps you are right. But again, I contend that this is a tricky time of year and any and every effort must be rewarded, even if the reward is faint praise. So, thank you! [APPLAUSE] Oh, and you over there? Thank you!

What was my resolution? To grow a full head of hair. I acknowledge from the outset that there are some genetically based barriers standing between me and the successful completion of this goal. Some may say it is impossible, to which I have three replies: 1.) Never say never.  2.) You’ve obviously never had “The Hair Dream.” 3.) I didn’t define a timeline during which this must be accomplished. This includes future lives, if you are so inclined to believe that kind of thing. (Fans of Shirley MacLaine may now applaud.) [APPLAUSE] Oh! Thank you so much! Stop. You may be embarrassing me.

Frivolous? A waste of a resolution? I think not. It is “impossible” for me to grow hair, you say? Then by comparison losing a few pounds will be a piece of cake (pardon the semi-pun.) (Is Louise Hay reading this? Perhaps it will make her get off her unmotivated tush and get moving.)

Wait. You’re asking, “What’s ‘The Hair Dream’”? This is a recurring dream I (and many other bald folks) have where I wake up in the morning, go into the bathroom, and am greeted in the mirror by a reflection of myself with a full, thick, head of hair. What follows is a session of hair styling featuring every style from the last twenty years that I may have missed out on. Contrary to most happy dreams, there is no disappointment when I wake up. And if you can dream it you can do it. Right? [APPLAUSE]

Meanwhile, if your resolutions included eating more healthfully, there’s no need to swear off the kitchen, or even the fun of baking. There’s no magic here, just a little technique, and the correct choice of ingredients.

Yes, portion control is vital, but even more vital is making sure every bite counts. Pack every nibble with flavor and texture, but keep everything healthy. A tall order? Not at all.

Last weekend I spent about an hour in the kitchen and made something I can snack on guiltlessly all week. My little grilled flatbreads owe a debt of gratitude—and a dab of yogurt—to Indian Naan, but could actually come from anywhere. The leavener, baking powder, doesn’t really make the dough rise as much as it relaxes the flour making these flatbreads a snap to roll out, but durable enough to grill (indoors or out).

The small amount of Greek yogurt in the recipe leaves enough in the container to make a respectable amount of dip. No Lipton Onion Soup mix here. My magic ingredient? Spanish anchovies, which perform a bit of umami magic by lending a bit of saltiness and nuttiness to the dip before disappearing and taking any unpleasant fishiness with them as they steal off into the night.


Oh, stop. You’re spoiling me.


Click here for the recipe for Grilled Semolina Flatbread with Roasted Onion Yogurt Dip


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Ripped from the headlines

Onion Rolls

Not a Bialy...

My parents used to warn me, “Don’t be a procrastinator!” Usually this was a concern about homework. Now that I am all grown up (please don’t laugh), I don’t think I procrastinate all that much. This would be because of all the aforementioned childhood warnings about the dangers of procrastination. They ring in my ears whenever there is anything I need to get cracking on and can feel myself stalling. It is advice that follows me around like that bowl of Cream of Wheat that used to follow the kid around all day in the old TV commercial.

I thought of this the other day while riding New York City’s sparkling subway. A man across from me was reading a newspaper. This was an actual newspaper, not one of the free mini-newspapers they push at you every morning. Every so often he would tear out a page, piling his “clippings” neatly on the seat next to him.

You may think that there’s nothing remarkable about that, but the over the past year or so the iPad, the Kindle, and the Nook have taken over the subway system as the reading media of choice. I’m kind of stuck between generations here: part of me misses the crinkle of the old broadsheet newspaper (remember how big the papers were before they went narrow a couple of years ago?), but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have been reading The New York Times on line for years, and don’t miss washing the ink off my hands…and clothes…and furniture.

The fun thing about reading newspapers and magazines digitally is that it has created a whole new kind of procrastination. Okay, maybe this isn’t actually procrastination in the strictest definition of the word. It used to be that you’d see a recipe that sparked your imagination and you’d rip it out and stick it up on a bulletin board, or on the door of your refrigerator, or you’d file it in the front of a cook book. Then five to ten years later you’d think, “Hey, where’s that recipe for Bisque Tortoni?” and not be able to find it, or you’d look at the pile of torn, yellowing recipes and think, “Why did I save these? Toss!”

I am now guilty of the digital version of the same crime. It started innocently enough: I would print out recipes, happy and satisfied that they were always the same size and therefore easy to organize and file. As technology progressed I started saving them as PDF files, and filing them in folders on my computer.

Funny thing is that the net result was still the same. I would still not use most of my “clippings” and even if I wanted to I had no idea or interest in rooting through the files to find the one that interested me that day. Is there a New Year’s resolution here? No. Far from feeling guilty or regretful about my habit, I’m kind of proud of it. No, I don’t use many of the clipped recipes, but when I do, the results are golden. Isn’t that true of most cookbooks you might buy? Technology hasn’t got a chance against human nature.

Lately a couple of the clipped recipes have been calling my name loudly and frequently. Last week, to celebrate New Year’s Eve I made the Café des Artistes Orange Savarin. This week I’m baking a recipe that was listed in The New York Times as a Hanukkah recipe, Onion Flat Rolls or “Pletzlach.”

I had never heard of these until about a month ago. When I was a kiddie, Hanukkah food was Potato Latkes and Milk Chocolate coins called Hanukkah “Gelt.” Onion Rolls? That was Sunday morning brunch fare, all year ‘round. Hooray for Hanukkah, but give me an Onion Roll any time of the year.

The onion rolls with which I am most familiar are, of course, Bialys, the Bagel’s roguish brother. I always preferred the Bialy over the Bagel. They’re better with the lox that inevitably follows them through the door. Pletzlach are a simpler version, using a slightly sweet, egg-enriched dough. Less chewy, yes, but eaten plain with a nice glass of seltzer and you’re in heaven. Throw a slice or three of lox on top and you’re in…what’s higher than heaven? Yeah, okay, there.

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is bread making. Use a Kitchen Aid mixer to do the kneading for you. I cut the recipe in half and made ten rolls—using the single egg in the full recipe as a “spooned-in” ingredient, in other words adding just enough to pull the dry ingredients together. But make the full recipe and you’ll make a crowd of people very happy.

The Pletzlach make a great “bring along” too—on those occasions when you’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner and shouldn’t arrive empty handed. Also, bringing your own bread to someone’s house is a great survival technique. If the person you’re visiting hasn’t been gifted with cooking skills, you’re assured you’ll like something they serve.

But we don’t know anyone like that, do we?


Click here for the recipe for Onion Flat Rolls (Pletzlach).


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Yes, das ist eine bread basket

Maple Walnut Sticky Buns

I need your help. The title of this post, Yes, das ist eine bread basket, is ripped straight from the fractured memories of my childhood. I think it was one of the lyrics of a “list” song I learned as a tot, but that single line is all I remember. That, and when you sang the words “bread basket” you pointed to your stomach. If you know the song please refresh my memory. (Or titter at my lack thereof.)

Can you tell that Thanksgiving makes me a sloppy nostalgic sap? Why not? It’s a big family holiday, so my thoughts always go to my Pop.

I always thought my Pop had the strangest tastes. When we’d go to the deli counter he’d order Three Bean Salad. He just loved it. I used to think, “Who eats Three Bean Salad? Yech.”

When we’d go for ice cream I’d order chocolate chip with jimmies; he’d order maple walnut. I’d think, “Who orders maple walnut ice cream? Yech.”

On Thanksgiving he always ended his meal with Baked Indian Pudding, and I’d think, “Really? But there’s pie!”

Granted, I’m still not a fan of Three Bean Salad, but that has more to do with a general aversion to the whole cole slaw / potato salad / macaroni salad niche of cold salads. But make maple walnut anything and I’m in. When did that happen?

Naturally my Pop was special because he was mine. But in reality he was a fairly typical guy of his time: first generation American, very solicitous of his Mother, World War Two army vet. During times when I was youthfully undisciplined, his strongest remonstration to me was, “A little time in the service would straighten you out but good.” The latter was a show of exasperation: he would no more have wanted me to join the service than he would have wanted me to run away with the circus.

When I was a kid, I had a voracious sweet tooth. My Pop had a sweet tooth too, but his was more measured. I never saw him eat candy. He was a cake and ice cream guy. It’s odd that I have sort of grown into that same type of sweet tooth and ironic that while I consider myself to still have a sweet tooth, I often complain about things being too sweet. How do I reconcile those contradictory claims?

Easy. I’m here to confirm the sad truth that, yes, we do become our parents, hair (or lack thereof) and all.

When I was a kid the first thing I’d grab out of the Thanksgiving bread basket was one of the sticky buns. Don’t confuse these with the lumbering, Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man-sized, mall-sourced Cinnabons. The little ones I’m recalling were designed to fit into a breadbasket, and seemed to always appear on Thanksgiving. Was this a New England tradition? Dunno.

As an adult my bread basket tastes have veered away from the sticky sweet and towards the savory: biscuits studded with cranberries, Anadama bread, and toasty, puffy white rolls—like Parker House Rolls. Even Northern-style cornbread—sweet—seems like a sugar rush. The sticky buns seem unredeemable and icky now, and the sticky fingered charm of my seven year-old alter ego fits my adult persona about as well as my old Cub Scout uniform. That is: not at all.

Yet people request them, and truthfully, who am I to deny today’s seven year olds the same fun I had getting everything and everyone sticky? And who am I to deny their Mothers the fun and frivolity of commanding them to, “… wash those filthy hands right this minute!”?

So here’s my version, ready for Thanksgiving.

To shake things up a bit I decided to not make the typical pecan sticky buns. To add a bit of flavor complexity, pay tribute to my Pop, and make preparation a bit easier, I reached deep down into my soul and got in touch with my Kitchen Wonk.

So, these are Maple Walnut Sticky Buns.  I recognize that these are a “project” and that if you are preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner, you may want to farm out this “project” to a willing patsy collaborator. The good news is that I have built the recipe on the bricks of the Parker House roll recipe, so depending on the size of your expected crowd you can make the basic dough and make half of it into sticky buns, and the other half into toasty, white Parker House rolls. You can also double the recipe and…well you know what to do.

Besides being a wink and a nod towards Pop, using maple syrup makes prep a little bit faster because the filling and the topping are easier to mix together as opposed to using just brown sugar. I like to think it is healthier than the dark corn syrup called for in some recipes. (Yeah, I know, this aint health food.)

Because we are making really small buns—one or two bites—I recommend that you bake them in pie plates or round cake pans. This way you’ll end up with fewer of the dreaded “middle buns”, the ones that are baked inside the pan and therefore brown less than the outies.

The recipe also instructs you to carefully turn the buns out when they are fresh from the oven to let the syrup and nuts drizzle down. After careful tasting and consideration (a sticky job but someone had to do it) I am ready to declare that I think I like them upside down—with the topping left on the bottom. That way you won’t miss the toasty crust which remains barely kissed with the syrup.

You can make these a day ahead, but you will want to gently warm them prior to serving in case the sugar in the syrup has crystallized.

Phew! I think holiday baking season has arrived. I’m pooped already. Time for a nap.

But first I’d better go wash my sticky hands.


Here’s the recipe for Maple Walnut Sticky Buns.


Keep these other Thanksgiving recipes in mind:

Cranberry Sauce

Parker House Rolls

Anadama Bread

Baked Indian Pudding

Alfred Lunt’s Famous Pumpkin Pie


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So many tweets, so little time

If you’re reading this you may already be late

Breakfast on the run...

Breakfast on the run...

The brisk fall morning sight of children on their way to school makes me happy. No, it is not the prospect of learning or expanding one’s horizons that cheers me; it is the bald fact that I do not have to go to school anymore. I didn’t hate school, but I didn’t love it either.

Nah. Scratch that. I hated school.

I feel guilty admitting it, for I have a great respect for education. I’d probably be a better—or at least more attentive– student now than I was when I was a kid. I have a friend, a woman of “a certain age” who just got her Master’s Degree. She confided the same thing to me, including the fact that she was now a better student. My unscientific conclusion has always been that you can break school kids into the same basic categories as adults:

Category 1: the workaholic. My high school was loaded with them, including one annoying, “straight A” soul who would refuse to look at her tests as they were handed back with the big red grade on top. When the bell rang she would frantically exit to the hall, then perform ritual leaps of joy in celebration of her A+, like it was a big, freakin’ surprise. It’s several hundred years later and, yes, I’m still bitter and annoyed. (She now works for the I.R.S.)

Category 2: the rest of us. The “…For Dummies” series of instructional guides always manage to catch our eye. I don’t want to say that I was a bad student, but I recently flunked a vision test. Honestly, I can’t study a menu without breaking into flop sweat. (Ohhhh, I‘ve got a million of ‘em…)

I know that there are many of you out there who feel at home in this category.

The interesting thing is that being in one category as a kid doesn’t guarantee that you’ll end up in the same category as an adult. The workplace is littered with formerly indifferent students who now consistently take the later train home because they have “… just a little bit more to do.” I wish I’d been a better student, but as an adult part of me rejoices that I will never be labeled a workaholic. There’s so much other stuff to do…

Like you, I had a ten mile commute to school through forty inches of snow in one hundred degree heat. Uphill. Both ways. I would forestall my departure by eating a healthy breakfast. Our cook would have my pancakes, eggs, and bacon ready just the way I liked them, and I would…okay clearly I’ve gone off the rails here. I wrote the word “forestall” and everything went blurry.

The truth is I have only vague memories of eating breakfast when I was a kid. I know I did, but beyond the concept of a bowl of cereal the specifics are hazy. Wheaties? Cheerios? Cap’n Crunch? I’m really not sure. There may have been an experiment with instant Cream of Wheat, but that was short lived. We had a breakfast nook, but I think we used it to eat dinner and to watch my Dad’s 8mm home movies. Harrumph: a whole section of my life haphazardly executed.

Now I am much more deliberate about my breakfast choices. Will I get hungry too soon before lunch? Will it make me fat(ter)? Can I work and eat it at the same time? I look around and watch what others are eating for breakfast and notice with a great amount of apprehension that folks seem to be looking for one vital element in their breakfast: a kick start. Lordy, when did Coca Cola become the breakfast of champions?

No kick start for yours truly; if I wanted that I’d pay someone to slap me across the face a few times. (Don’t even try it.) Slow and steady is more my style. It works for me and I find that most mornings I am fully awake by 1 PM.

Still, I find my busy schedule sometimes doesn’t allow me to linger over breakfast. The question is: short of gruel-like instant oatmeal, what is a supercharged healthy breakfast that I can eat on the run? A chum swears by toast with a swipe or two of peanut butter. I need a bit more entertainment than that in the morning. I have devised my “best in show” breakfast on the run.

I almost resent the health benefits of oatmeal; Quaker oatmeal is practically advertised as an alternative to Lipitor. But I can put my crankiness aside long enough to include it as part of my breakfast. Thumbing through my beloved old copy of The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne I found a recipe for “Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Bread.” Oatmeal bread has always been a favorite of mine. Usually only mildly sweet, yet slightly dense, this recipe has a delicate crumb and a toasty crust.

Yes, I understand that the thought of baking bread gives most people pause. But if you are in possession of a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer bread making requires very little work and very little expertise. Yes the entire process takes several hours from bag of flour to loaf of bread, but most of that time you can do other things.

I also substituted almond butter for the peanut butter my chum uses. This was a choice dictated only by taste, and I also topped the almond butter with slices of green apple. The combination is almost pastry-like, but you can feel smug in the knowledge that the entire affair is very healthy. You can use any kind of apple you prefer, but I use green apple in the morning on the advice of a friend who is a singer. Green apples have an astringent quality that can help clear your throat of impurities.

That’s good news as a clear throat can help me maintain my phlegmatic demeanor through the rest of the day.


Click here for the recipe for Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Bread.


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Back From the Beach (The Sequel)

Cornbread and Pandebono

The deadpan look on the face of the TSA agent said: “Okay, now I really have seen everything.” In her defense, who could blame her? How often does she come across guys carrying bags of flour in their carry on luggage? She carefully swabbed the outside of the packages and let me go.

(Hint to travelers: when traveling with flour, take it out of your luggage, put it in the bucket, and run it through the scanner.)

(I ask you: how many travel blogs would you have had to look through to get advice for carrying flour on board a plane?)

And you ask: why am I traveling with flour? Can’t I get it at home? A reasonable question. The TSA agent asked it too.

I have enough key chains and refrigerator magnets. I do not need any more tchochkes, so when I travel my idea of a souvenir hunt usually involves a trip to the supermarket. I don’t always know what I want when I go, but I can be easily hypnotized by the sight of a colorful wrapper with foreign words.

During this year’s summer trip to a beach down south I actually went in search of something specific: Martha White. That’s not a person; it’s a brand of flour that is legendary down south. You just can’t find it up north, and I have been told that if you want to make really great biscuits, then Martha White is your gal—uh – flour.

Unfortunately the only Martha White flour I could find this trip was the self-rising cornmeal flour. But that’s okay: biscuits later, cornbread now.

While I was trolling the aisles, I also came across a whole section of South American foods, including items from Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. I am a big fan of Brazilian Pão de Queijo, a bread made with tapioca flour and cheese. Facing me in the aisle was a box, imported from Colombia, containing a mix for Pandebono. Pandebono is a type of bread made of corn flour, tapioca starch, cheese and eggs. Supposedly you eat them warm with Hot Chocolate. Naturally I couldn’t resist.

One bumpy ride with fastened seat belts later, I was in my kitchen mixing the Martha White cornbread. Cornbread can be a contentious issue amongst its devotees. Many southerners show disdain for northern cornbread. Maybe they have a point. The sweet yellow cornbread we serve up north is dense and moist like a dessert. Southerners prefer a more savory white cornbread, often baked in a roaring hot skilled with a bit if pre-heated fat.

I know that I am always banging the drum of scratch baking, but I am not mix averse, I am bad ingredient averse. As an example, let’s take the ubiquitous Jiffy mixes. One of the primary ingredients in their corn muffin mix is lard. Hey Jiffy: it’s 2011. Seriously. Lard?

So that’s why the Martha White mix gets my stamp of approval. The ingredients are white corn meal, flour, baking soda and salt. I added my own egg, milk, and oil. The Martha White mix makes a very savory, toasty cornbread that is very light, and would be great with a bowl of chili, or as a stuffing for roast turkey or chicken.

Speaking of ingredients, the Panbebono mix lists tapioca starch as the first ingredient. Most people know tapioca as a pudding or gravy thickener, so for this gringo it is surprising to see it used in bread. I shouldn’t be surprised though, because it is getting some play as an ingredient in gluten-free baking. It also produces things with a texture that is a bit foreign to me: gummy. Gummy is a misleading word in that it sounds like a pejorative. A more accurate description would be that the Pandebono rolls have an inside that is similar to a popover.

As with the Martha White Cornmeal mix, the Pandebono mix is also very basic, and required that I add my own grated Cotija cheese, a touch of margarine or butter, and water. Cotija cheese is fairly easy to find here in New York, and its briny, crumbly taste and texture isn’t that far from Ricotta Salada.

The Pandebonos are good warm, but I found them to be even better when allowed to cool which tames their gummy texture, and brings out the contrast of the briny cheese, and the sugar in the mix. These are a real revelation for me and I can’t wait to experiment with other cheeses—possibly heresy to Colombians, so apologies in advance.

I wonder if Martha White is listed on a “no-fly” list?


Read what I made last year when I came back from the beach.

You can order Pandebono mix here

You can order Martha White mixes here (so who needs to travel?)


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September is back to Tweet time… tweet early and often!

Man of Letters

Bread And Butter Pudding

Fit for an heir...

Phew! Busy spring and summer. I’m just getting caught up on my email. I thought you’d find this one interesting.


Subject: Recipe

Your Royal Highness-

I’m terribly sorry it has taken so long to get back to you—I’ve been adrift in a sea of overdue correspondence. (or is it correspondense? I always forget which words use the “s” instead of the “c” in English english.) Just to put things in context, it is almost September and I’ve only just sent my recipe for Christmas cookies to Dame Joan Collins (O.B.E.), and she asked me for that at her Christmas / Hanukkah Party. I think she’s a bit peeved. Such is my quiet, simple, life with only one staff of 12.

To answer your first question: no, I would not be unduly concerned that people are not asking for the recipe for His Royal Highness’ Groom’s cake. After all, it was less a cake and more a big hunk of chocolate with some biscuits mixed in. A little bit went a long way. (Leave it to the House of Windsor to figure out a way to get people to eat candy with a fork! Don’t think I didn’t get a jolly good laugh watching Sir Elton John (C.B.E.) slide that around on his plate.)

At the wedding you expressed your concern about the very small size of your kitchen in the house where you and William will be living until he finishes his military service. You are correct in surmising that we New Yorkers know a little something about small kitchens. I understand your decision to leave your Kitchen Aid stand mixer back in London due to space, but might I suggest that even as a Newlywed one should continue to put one’s best foot forward. “The way to a man’s heart…” and all that, eh?

That aside, I am more than happy to help you with a few recipes you can use in your little kitchen in Wales.

As William is obviously a chocoholic (I knew there was a reason why he is so beloved), you may want to try my Tiger-Stripe Brownies. Yes, I am fully aware that The Hon. Nigella Lawson (O.B.E.) always bakes her brownies with butter, but I am insistent that canola oil makes a better brownie, and we don’t want to be sending Wills off to battle with a leaden tummy full of butter, do we? (That’s likely what got ol’ Uncle Andy in trouble, wink wink.) This is one place where I must insist that you listen to this wise old colonist.

I thought it would also be fun to include a typically British recipe for you…after all, who is more typically British than “Lord Thirdinlinetothethrone” (the latter almost looks like the name of a town in Wales, doesn’t it? Tee hee!) I know William doesn’t like it when I call him that, so apologies. How does Bread and Butter Pudding sound to you? Sounds British to me.

Recently I had occasion to run into Lady Posh Spice-Beckham (M.B.E., R.I.A.A.) at the intimate Los Angeles estate of Sir Craig Ferguson (C.B.S.). Naturally the conversation turned to food. After much begging and cajoling, I was able to extricate the famous Beckham Bread and Butter Pudding recipe from her. (Sir Craig’s Haggis recipe is a stone best left unturned.)

Here’s the thing with the Beckham’s recipe: they add beer. I may be from the wrong side of the Atlantic to appreciate this, but hmmmmm…I’m not feeling it. It could be that our American version, which goes by the rather unadorned name of Bread Pudding, and the French version, Pain Perdu, have slightly less aggressive mandates. Mine, I’m afraid, hews closely to these models.

I made you just a simple, plain, pudding, and have a few recommendations should you care to get fancy.

First, use a sturdy sliced white bread loaf, none of that squidgy stuff. Here in the US I use the Pepperidge Farm brand. Second—and this is optional—I cut off the crusts. Don’t throw away the crusts though! I collect them in a bowl, toss them with a bit of Olive Oil and minced garlic and pop them into a hot oven to toast. They make great—if a bit unconventional—salad croutons. Cutting off the crusts is mostly for looks, but also creates little crunchy points as the pudding bakes which serve as a great contrast with the moist pudding base.

As we discussed, William loves his chocolate, so you should feel free to sprinkle about a half cup of chocolate chips amongst the buttered, sliced bread, or if you’re feeling particularly earthy, break a couple of bars of chocolate into little pieces and use that. (Bar chocolate melts better than chocolate chips some of which have stabilizers added to help them retain their shape.)

I only recommend chocolate because of my own addiction, but you can also add sliced apples (perfect in the fall here in the states); berries will still thrill in these waning days of summer. The traditional toss-in is raisins—sultanas or otherwise. This is where you can feel free to be creative. I also like a dab of ice cream on mine. Rich? Yes. You are.

We also have the Jewish New Year coming up next month. If you substitute cooked egg noodles for the bread you will make a dynamite Noodle Kugel. (Sorry, can’t resist the thought of William, the future head of the Church of England eating kugel on Rosh Hashonah. So glad you’re open minded.)

Kate, I do hope you and William enjoy this Bread and Butter Pudding. Make it and let me know what you think.

Looking forward to seeing you at Lord and Lady Corwin’s upcoming foxhunt.


Click here for the recipe for Bread And Butter Pudding.


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Pity the Poor Lightweight

Pity the poor lightweight. You’ve seen us at parties, bars, and all sort of social gatherings. You recognize us by what we’re drinking: club soda, wedge of lime. We figure most folks will assume we’re holding a gin and tonic or vodka and soda, but deep down, we know we’re not fooling anyone. We know what everyone knows: we’re stone cold sober, and often nodding and smiling like we’re having fun, but off in the front corner of our mind we are thinking about the episode of “Summer Wipeout” we’re missing.

This is the opposite of being a wallflower, for there is no discomfort or reticence that causes our abstemiousness, simply a lack of taste buds that enjoy alcohol.

Most of us misbegotten souls find solace in bar snacks. I wish I had a five dollar bill for every time a dish of Japanese Rice Crackers have gotten me through a bar-centric occasion. MSG never tasted so good. (Five dollar bill? Not a nickel? Yeah. Inflation.)

The other day I was in the bar of a very groovy, of-the-moment, downtown restaurant where the sole bar snack was Wasabi Peanuts. There isn’t enough club soda in the universe to douse that flame. Would someone mind explaining to me the fascination the folks who sell bar food have with Japanese snacks? The core Japanese diet may on the whole be healthier than our core diet, but have you ever looked at the list of ingredients in their snack foods? Downright toxic.

Of course there are many examples of bar snacks that reflect thought, sophistication, and a restrained touch. The nuts at Union Square Café come to mind, a lightly salty, slightly sweet roast of nuts, tinted with the evergreen fragrance of rosemary. A meal unto itself, and for us lightweights an oasis of charm in an otherwise greasy sea.

Parties at home are not immune. Imagine your typical backyard barbecue. A cooler with bottles of beer. Have you noticed that beer drinkers are still provided with the charm of hoisting a cold, glass bottle containing their beverage, yet, pity the poor lightweight who must make do with the charm of a plastic cup? Why don’t soft drink companies recognize this and sell more of their product in glass bottles (at least during the summer) so that I can enjoy my backyard beverage the same way? Yes, they make cans of soda, but you are denied the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the fizz and clarity of what you are drinking.

Ah, but we were talking about bar snacks. I should clarify: I’m not asking to be served dinner; Just a little something that will keep me amused.

Cheese and crackers are nice, but interestingly enough, after a bite or two of cheese I tend to gravitate toward the crackers alone. I love cheese, but the crackers call my name. This makes me self-conscious as I feel like I am “stealing” crackers from folks who want to put them to their rightful purpose as cheese carriers. (This, as my Mother would say, should be my biggest regret.)

Last year I wrote about cake salée, the savory cake that has become so popular in France as a “little something” to serve with wine before a meal. These cakes are often flavored with a combination of cheese and cured meat, like gruyere and prosciutto. I like that practice: a few bites of something with a little substance to keep me interested until the fish hits the pan. Cake salée is also self-contained: I won’t drip it on my shirt.

But during the hot weather the menu changes a bit, and along with it, folks’ choice of wine. I was watching TV the other day and saw an entire segment about Rosé wine. Rosé is one of those wines that cycles up and down in popularity. About a dozen years ago when everyone was calling it White Zinfandel purists considered it a step above Kool-Aid. (That’s one great advantage about being a lightweight: you can’t be a wine snob.)

Now they are calling it Rosé, and it seems to have gained the slightest foothold as a legit summer beverage. Perhaps because it is best served chilled, and tends to have a lower price tag? Perhaps.

I was pondering the hypothetical question of what to serve with a chilled glass of wine on a hot summer night. Cake salée came to mind, but while I was hunting the supermarket cheese aisle for inspiration I happened to see a tub of Port Wine Cheese. I may have been in college the last time I had a swipe of Port Wine Cheese on a cracker. If you have forgotten, Port Wine Cheese was a spreadable extra sharp cheddar cheese with “Port Wine” swirled through it. I placed Port Wine in quotation marks because it was unlikely that any actual Port Wine was harmed in the production of the cheese.

But there it is: my inspiration. I could have flavored a cake salée to mimic this, but I thought people might enjoy something with a little crunch: biscotti.

I took my standard biscotti base recipe, subtracted most of the sugar, added a generous wedge of the sharpest cheddar I could find, and used dried cranberries to mimic the port wine sweetness. The result is a mellow, slightly sweet, cheese cracker that will surprise folks expecting something salty. Each slice is somewhat rich, so meager portions will hold even the most ravenous guest until dinner is served.

And yes, that includes lightweights.


Click here for my recipe for “Port Wine” Cheese Biscotti


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If Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche Call It Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza. Ties are optional.

Thank goodness for modern technology: It has created a whole new gift category. Back in my Father’s time, dads got golf equipment, fishing tackle, cologne, and the dreaded new tie. My Mom used to try to buy my Pop sweaters, but I’m not sure any of them ended up escaping Filenes’ returns department.

Dads still want golf and fishing stuff, but they no longer have to worry about questionable sweater choices. Modern technology means you can give Dad a little electronic device that he can take to the beach and get caught up on his reading or even watch baseball. Try that with a sweater. Amazon now sells more e-books than paper and cardboard books. Every Tom, Dick, and Harriet on the subway is reading the latest best seller on a Kindle. Yeah, but what’s in their sweater drawer?

Father’s Day also doesn’t seem to have the same sense of ceremony as Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day you slap an orchid on Mom’s shoulder and take her out for a frilly salad. Father’s Day honorees would rather go fishing—or like my brother, golfing—and come home to a nap and a good steak. I’m painting with a very broad brush, yes, but that’s okay. Let’s make dad a good breakfast and send him on his way to spend the day the way he wants.

Not that this means that Mom has to bear the burden of cooking a complicated breakfast. Quiche might be a good choice. Mom can make it the day before and then gently reheat it the next morning.

I can’t bake or eat Quiche without thinking of that ‘80’s spoof on masculinity, “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” I wonder what fifty million Frenchmen thought when that book was published? I am also a huge fan of Hitchcock movies, so any mention of Quiche also causes my mind to stray to the scene in “To Catch A Thief” (the most glamorous movie ever made) where Cary Grant’s character offers a guest Quiche Lorraine, and explains that while his housekeeper’s hands have an especially tender touch with pastry dough, she also used them to silently strangle a Nazi general when she was in La Résistance (this is, after all, Hitchcock.)

Alas, in 2011, I‘d be willing to bet that the only real men out there who would take exception to eating Quiche are members of the Lipitor club. Maybe we can find something in the cupboard that even the Lipitor club can enjoy. For Father’s Day, why not borrow the concept of quiche, and literally change course—as in, breakfast is served, Pops!

Granted Quiche has an aura of expertise and advanced skill, but peel away the aura and what have you got? Egg pie. C’mon: you can handle that! Even better: for my version, no special equipment is required; all you need is a big bowl, a fork, a couple of knives (dull is fine), and a couple of hands (yours or someone else’s). I am not talking about some “back-of-the-Bisquik-box-recipe-cheesy-egg-bake.” No sir. This is Breakfast Pizza. Dad will like this, and the good news is that the kids help make it.

Breakfast Biscuit sandwiches are big business nowadays—with good reason: people like them. Truth be told this version of breakfast pizza owes a great deal to the biscuit sandwich. While quiche has a delicate pâte brisée crust, and pizza uses yeast dough, Breakfast Pizza uses a simple baking powder biscuit dough. Instead of rolling and cutting the dough, after an easy hand mix, you dump it into the cooking vessel—a skillet—and press it into the bottom with your hands. Tricky folks can feel free to use the bottom of a measuring cup.

Toppings—besides the egg—are free choice. I stuck with items that are typically pizza in theme: peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. I even placed a few dabs of tomato sauce on top. Let what is fresh in your local market be your guide.

If Dad is a breakfast fiend, then make him happy by topping the pizza with some good organic turkey sausage, some diced potatoes, and mix a bit of thawed, frozen spinach in with the eggs (breakfast pizza is a great way of getting vegetables into the family tummy.)

The one I made in the photo above used four eggs—and serves four or five people. Even the most egg-shy folks can indulge. I made mine in a skillet, but that was only for looks. Feel free to use a pie plate, or any other pan you think will make an attractive presentation.

Happy Day, Dad!


Click here for my recipe for “Breakfast Pizza


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My Revolution

Eight Grain Hamburger Rolls

Ready for the backyard...if I had one.

I don’t like to write about politics in this venue. A friend of mine—much wiser than I—is fond of saying, “If you want to send a message call Western Union.” He’s usually talking about plays, TV shows, or movies that are used as vehicles to put forth a political or moral argument. I tend to agree when it is done poorly. But if you succeed in entertaining me, then I say, go ahead and preach.

It can be easy to dismiss these messages. Personal zealotry can be just as repellant as it can be appealing. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I had never given Jamie Oliver, the young British chef and restaurateur much thought. Fact is I’ve never given most celebrity chefs much thought. Do I think they are talented? Absolutely. Do I care? Nyet. I am most assuredly not a restaurant foodie; unlike most New Yorkers I prefer to eat at home. (I could have titled this posting, “Never Been To Nobu”.)

Yet there I am, in front of my TV each week watching “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Didactic? Yup. Preachy? Affirmative. And totally my cup of tea because I am totally in step with the message being tooted.

The show, an extension of a program he started in the UK, follows Oliver’s “man vs. the machine” quest to improve the eating habits of America’s children, starting with the food they eat in their schools’ cafeterias. Last season concentrated on a couple of schools in Huntington, West Virginia; this season he has picked a bigger rock to roll up hill: Los Angeles.

In an age when TV executives seem unable to provide anything better than endless competition shows (“America’s Next [Fill In The Blank]”), freak shows (“Hoarders” which I think of whenever too much time has elapsed between apartment cleanings—so, often), and cotton candy (anything Kardashianic), one has to wonder how “Food Revolution” ever made it to network television. No one gets voted off. No one throws a glass of wine at anyone. No one is designing a line of jeans.

The closest the show has ever gotten to the voyeuristic realm of reality television was last week’s brief glimpses of Oliver’s family in the kitchen of their rented LA home which showed his baby daughter mesmerized by turning the faucet on and off with her feet. (I thought it was sweet, cute, and very funny. And yes, I am a sap.)

The answers are likely a combination of the show’s Executive Producer, that twenty-first century show-biz virago, Ryan Seacrest, the family-friendly Disney owned ABC, and the fact that the British version of the show was a hit.

What amazes me is the fact that the changes he wants to make are considered a revolution. Last year in West Virginia he noted that the only milk choices were Chocolate or Strawberry – both contain the equivalent of 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar. He fought to get regular milk in the cafeterias—and lost.

When I was a kid (lo those many years ago) the schools served us a little half pint of regular milk each day. Ice cold. It was delicious—and I’ve never been a big milk drinker. Every once in a while there were kids who added a spoonful of Nestlé’s Quik, but for the most part they were the exception, not the rule.

I ride the subway and notice with increasing alarm the increasing size of our youngsters. When I was a kid if you were overweight you were ostracized because most kids were skinny until they hit their teens. Is overweight the new normal? Are we raising a “Big Gulp” generation? When did a tanker-sized cup of soda become the normal serving?

There are as many theories of what has caused the so-called “epidemic” of childhood obesity as there are people. I’m not claiming to know the answer, but I’m convinced that people have been overwhelmed by information: everything is bad for you, therefore, what’s the difference? Order whatever you want—sauce on the side.

Where, you ask, does a man who writes about baking and sugary treats get off attacking sugar? A valid question. The idea isn’t to make cake disappear. The idea is to eat good cake, made from quality ingredients, and as part of a healthy diet. It’s a treat not dinner.

In Los Angeles this season, Oliver isn’t trying to make burgers disappear. He is helping a guy who owns a typical LA drive-through burger joint change the quality of the ingredients he uses—ranch-fed beef, good sauces, and whole grain rolls. The trick is to make sure that the guy who owns the drive through continues to have a thriving business even though the ingredients may cost more. (He seems to have succeeded.)

Listen, I don’t know Jamie Oliver. I don’t know what compelled him to adopt this cause. But I sure do admire the work he has done. I admire the work Alice Waters has done with her Edible Schoolyard program where she has set up school gardens. The students raise the vegetables which are then used in their lunches. Maybe if kids get closer to understanding where their food comes from they’ll make better choices? (Question mark intentional.)

I thought it would be fun to recreate the Revolution Burger at home, at least in concept. The organic farm-raised beef was the easy part—Fairway Market here in New York took care of that. My responsibility was to create a hamburger roll that would make Jamie proud. Seven grains? Feh! I used eight!

A really good burger sitting on a rock hard roll is no one’s friend, so I knew I needed to make a roll that had some squish and richness. I “appropriated” an idea from America’s Test Kitchen: use cooked eight grain cereal in the dough. This is brilliant because uncooked whole grains can be too hard to digest while making the roll too dry to enjoy. Further, I cooked the cereal in milk which added richness to the dough. (Bread made with milk also tends to have a toastier crust.) A touch of honey brought out the sweet fragrance of the grains.

The result has the heft of whole grain and the squish and sweetness of plain ol’ hamburger rolls.

If you know Jamie, pass this along and ask him if he approves.


Click here for my recipe for “Eight Grain Hamburger Rolls


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Brain: Out Of Office

Sweet Potato Rolls

Lobster from the icy North Atlantic...rolls from me

In an exquisite bit of time travel, my brain has flashed forward and is currently enjoying the long Memorial Day Weekend at the beach. Sadly, the rest of me has remained behind in the city, two weeks of work and worry away from such pleasures. I think I am not alone this year, as most people are recovering from a rather abusive relationship with Winter.

The reason I am convinced that my brain is elsewhere is because I have already started thinking about all the food that I associate with the fun of summer: hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream sandwiches, and my New England faves, fried clams, and Lobster Roll.

While I love all of the above, Clam Roll and Lobster Roll are my travel folder summer meals. If I had to name a favorite food, they’d certainly be on the list. “The condemned man ate a hearty last meal of Lobster Roll. And then he had a Clam Roll and an ice cream sandwich.” Read that and you’ll know I’m gone.  I can’t actually name only one favorite food, but I think I have made my point.

Fried Clams are best consumed at a reputable clam bar, preferably overlooking a body of water, while jealous Sea Gulls circle overhead. But Lobster Roll remains within reach of the home cook, albeit with a hefty price tag dangling from one of the claws. Yes, my brain is down at the beach splurging on Lobster Roll.

The thing is, I feel very protective of Lobster Roll. It is so simple and basic, which explains why it is so easy to make it wrong. Lobster by itself is so perfect straight from the steam, cracked open, dunked in a touch of melted butter. When in doubt I try to not stray too far from that.

Some folks think that the same rules that apply to making Tuna Fish salad will still hold true when making Lobster Roll, but this is simply not the case. In Lobster Roll the mayonnaise should be kept to the barest minimum; just enough to coat may be too much. Some insist that you should dispense with the mayo altogether, and stick with a drizzle of butter. Not a bad idea.

For traditionalists though, a touch of mayo, and just the sparsest tumble of diced celery will suffice. No salt, thank you, the mayo and the lobster and the obligatory Wise potato chips served on the side have plenty. (French Fries? With Lobster Roll? On what planet?)

Phew! Glad that’s settled.

Oh wait! I forgot the most important part: the bread.

The real New England-style hot dog roll is baked side-by-side and sliced on top (as opposed to the side). When the rolls are pulled apart, more bread is exposed, so we butter and grill or toast the sides of the bun too. This holds true for hot dogs, Clam Rolls, and Lobster Rolls. Lobster Roll isn’t Lobster Roll without this key element. It’s the law (lower case “L”.)

The bun itself is all about texture. This is no place for whole wheat. Fluffy bread is good because the toasting creates a contrast of textures. But that should in no way imply that boring white bread is called for.

As a little treat, I decided to make my own hot dog rolls, and this called to mind the puffiest, fluffiest bread I could think of: potato bread. No, this is not a New England specialty; actually, I think it comes from Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Hold on there, buddy (you’re thinking), with all the great hot dog buns sold, why are you making your own? Is this one of those “Martha Stewart-raise-your-own-hens-so-you-can-have-the-best-scrambled-eggs” moments?

My answer: “Yes. No.”

Translation of ambiguous answer: rolls that you buy in the store are just rolls. Mine are artisanal. Yes, that’s right, I just dropped the “A” bomb on you. At $15.99 a pound, how often will I splurge on Lobster Roll? So I think it is worth it to create something special to mark the occasion. Also, New England-style top sliced buns are hard to find in New York. (You should feel free to use whatever rolls suit your fancy. No judgment from me, I promise.)

Potato bread tends to be very soft and fluffy because of the loose, gluten-free starch in the potatoes. Deciding to up the ante a bit, instead of using a regular potato, I used a sweet potato.  Its honey-like sweetness and carroty color would add a mellow tang to the bread. My intent was not to make an icky-sweet roll, just something sweetly laid back.

I diced and boiled the potato until it was cooked through, then drained it thoroughly before mashing into a smooth paste with a fork. Then I added it with some of the flour to the dough. Some potato bread recipes use a bit of the liquid in which you boiled the potato. Instead, I used milk for a touch of richness.

The result is a roll with a gentle sweetness, and a sunny saffron color which surprisingly coordinates with the rusty, salmon pink of the lobster. I have a few left over which I will pair with some Hebrew National hot dogs, or maybe some chicken sausage.

Meanwhile, I hope my brain is wearing sunscreen.


Click here for my recipe for “Sweet Potato Hot Dog Rolls


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