• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Squash tian (aka casserole)

One of my new favorite recipes — a squash/pumpkin casserole. I found the recipe at The Kitchn; Faith Durand adapted it from Rosa Jackson, a Canadian-born food writer and cooking teacher based in Nice and Paris. The original recipe, Tian de courge, is at Rosa’s old blog; don’t miss Rosa’s current blog, Edible Adventures. This is a lovely dish for a cozy, lazy autumn or winter meal. It can be doubled easily, you can use any sort of squash or pumpkin you can find, and is perfect for a potluck. It goes great with a ham, roast chicken or turkey, or beef or pork roast.

I’ve made some changes, which I’ve highlighted below. I made it last weekend, to accompany a ham at a Christmas potluck, with a smallish butternut squash and a large Kabocha squash. I’m making it again for our big family Christmas eve turkey dinner, with a butternut squash and two acorn squashes.

*  *  *

Butternut Squash Tian with Herbed Bread Crumbs

Recipe adapted by Faith Durand/The Kitchn from Rosa Jackson. Serves 4

2 to 2 1/2-pound whole butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1/4 cup short-grain or arborio rice (I use short-grain)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg
Provencal breadcrumbs (recipe below)

Heat the oven to 375° F and lightly grease a 1-1/2 to 2-quart baking dish (such as a deep pie dish) with olive oil.

Peel and slice the butternut squash. You should have 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds prepared squash flesh. Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the squash in the olive oil with a sprinkling of salt until it softens and starts to disintegrate, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cover for most of the cooking time to speed the process. (I sauté the butternut, but bake the Kabocha/acorn squash)

While the squash is cooking, heat a small saucepan of salted water over high heat. When it is boiling, add the rice. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Place the cooked squash in a large bowl and combine with the rice, Parmesan, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and generous dashes of pepper and nutmeg. When it has cooled slightly, mix in the eggs quickly so that they don’t scramble. The mixture may seem on the liquid side, but this is fine.

Pour it into the prepared gratin dish, top with the herbed bread crumbs (recipe below) and a generous drizzle of olive oil. (If desired, you can prepare to this point, cover and refrigerate for up to two days. When ready to serve, bake as directed below.)

Bake for 35 minutes or until slightly toasted on top and set. Serve warm.

This recipe doubles very well; I (Faith Durand writing) use a 4-pound squash and bake the tian in a 9×13-inch casserole dish.

Herbed Bread Crumbs
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 big handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves only (I use what the supermarket had, which often is only the curly variety)
Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs of thyme or rosemary (I use a mixture of dried thyme and rosemary)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, blend together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Add the olive oil and blend until the breadcrumbs are soft and green, adding a little more oil if necessary. Season well with salt and pepper. (I don’t use a food processor. I use a rasp for the garlic and cheese, my knife for the parsley, and I sauté the garlic in the oil, then toss in the breadcrumbs to coat, sauté for another few minutes, then stir in parsley to coat. I like the flavor of the sautéed garlic, and I like not having to take apart and clean the food processor.)

Sticky toffee pudding

This has become our favorite winter dessert this year. I bake it in a square metal pan, grease it well, and put home-canned pear halves on the bottom before I add the batter, and then serve it with unsweetened whipped cream and chopped candied ginger on top. We had a version with the pears, sort of like a pineapple upside down cake, when we were living in the West Indies about 10 years and it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten. Here’s another version with pears, though these are fresh and unpeeled. I would imagine apples (peeled) would be good, too.

The version below is from the Hunter’s Head Tavern, an “authentic English pub” in Upperville, Virginia via Bon Appétit magazine. Nigella Lawson has a very good version as well, but it calls for self-raising flour, which is hard to come by in this part of the world. It goes without saying that Farm School is Team Nigella.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (from the Bon Appétit website)
Serves 6

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1-1/2 cups flour, plus more for flouring pan
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) chopped pitted dates (I cut off thin slices with a serrated bread knife)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt (omit if you use salted butter)
3/4 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 cup, we prefer it less sweet)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Sauce
1-1/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tsp brandy (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 °. Butter and flour pan. The online recipe calls for a Bundt pan, and the last time we used a Nordic Ware sunflower pan, which worked well.

Bring dates and 1-1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan with tall sides (the tall sides are important because in the next step, the date mixture will foam UP). Cook the dates until they are sludgy, and use a potato masher if necessary (if you didn’t chop/grate them finely enough).

Remove pan from heat and whisk in baking soda (mixture will become foamy). Set aside; let cool.

Whisk together 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt (if using) in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend (mixture will be grainy). Add 1 egg; beat to blend. Add half of flour mixture and half of date mixture; beat to blend. Repeat with remaining egg, flour mixture, and date mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out almost clean, 40 minutes or so (start checking at about 30 minutes). Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert pudding onto rack. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Sauce
Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in brandy, if using, and vanilla. Can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm gently before using.

Cut cake into wedges. Serve with sauce and whipped cream, and garnish with chopped candied ginger if you like.

Warm apple dessert for a cold January Sunday

On the menu for today, along with pork roast — smitten kitchen’s Apple Sharlotka, via Deb Perelman’s Russian mother-in-law. The perfect way to use up the last of our case of Macintosh apples from BC, though I will probably go with 3/4 cup of sugar…

Apple Sharlotka

Adapted from Alex’s mother, who adapted it from her mother, and so on…

Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (Updated to clarify: Spread the batter and press it down into the apple pile. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar. Alex’s family eats it plain, but imagine it would be delicious with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped or sour cream.

Am very much looking forward to the Smitten Kitchen cookbook coming in the autumn. I have countless SK recipes saved in my email, printed off on loose sheets of paper, scribbled on yellow lined pads.

Pickle emergency

One of the foods I’ve missed most since leaving NYC 17 years ago is kimchi, Korean spicy fermented cabbage.

I’ve never bothered trying to make it because I hadn’t found any simple recipes to accommodate what’s not available here on the prairie, including Napa cabbage, sweet rice flour (which is available all over Amazon.com but not Amazon.ca), daikon radish, and fresh squid or oysters. So I was very excited the other day to discover Maangchi’s recipe for “emergency kimchi”, which is made with regular cabbage and without the seafood, which is always a problem here in our land-locked province; I’m not the only family member pining for seafood since at a recent 4H meeting, in response to a roll call question about their favorite foods, one landlocked child of mine answered “lobster” and another “crab”.

But I just stumbled over Maangchi’s “emergency kimchi” recipe, which is not only made with easy to find ingredients (think midwest chain grocery store where the shelf with organic canned tomatoes is considered wild and exotic) but quick, so that I don’t have to store the clay pot under my front door.  Preparation time is just 30 minutes, and the recipe uses regular cabbage and avoids the traditional porridge made with sweet rice flour.  It does still call for Korean hot pepper flakes, but I plan to use the supermarket brand (sigh…). If I’d found the recipe sooner, I would have stocked up last month on Korean hot pepper at the Korean greengrocer near my parents’ apartment. I do see a couple of Korean groceries in Edmonton listed on this page.  Thank you, Maangchi, for making kimchi a possibility out here.

If you live somewhere more civilized, here’s Maangchi’s traditional recipe, and here is the easy time-saving recipe with traditional ingredients.  You can find all sorts of Korean recipes, cooking tips, and even YouTube cooking videos, at her website.

More on history and food

If you happen to find yourself in NYC next week, food historian Francine Segan is speaking at the 92nd Street Y on the history on the history of pie (hat tip to Allison Hemler at Serious Eats NY):

Pie! A Tasting and History, Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 7 pm – 8:30 pm

From the Y’s website:

Pies, both sweet and savory, have a fascinating history. find out the stories behind pie-eating contests and the three-foot-high pasta pies served to Italian royalty; pie recipes that won $25,000; why the expression “American as apple pie” is grossly untrue and much more. Includes tasting of mock apple, lemon meringue and banana cream pies, tarts and savory pies. Recipe handouts allow you to indulge your sweet tooth at home.

As a child I was always intrigued by the recipe for mock apple pie on the Ritz crackers box (and also by the tale of Ma Ingalls’ similar pie, made with green tomatoes), but never quite intrigued or brave enough to actually make it. 

If you can’t make it to New York but would like to include more food in your history — or music and movie appreciation –studies, Ms. Segan has a list of her lecture topics here (Feasting with Caesar: Lush Life in Ancient Rome and The King’s Table: Sea Serpent Stew & Dragon’s Brew, for delicious example) and has also written a number of cookbooks to spark your imagination:

Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook

The Philosopher’s Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook

The Opera Lover’s Cookbook: Menus for Elegant Entertaining

Movie Menus: Recipes for Perfect Meals with Your Favorite Films  


Easy homemade ice cream

Well, not technically ice cream. But a yummy summer frozen treat.

Via Instructables, here’s Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn recipe for one-ingredient ice cream.

Considering that when they were babies, my kids’ favorite dessert was “banana pudding” (a banana mashed with a fork), this should be a hit around here.

And after you make your ice cream, you can get started on Instructables’ chain mail from pop tabs. Very, very nifty looking.

A harvest dessert

Just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving, and with part of the big box of BC apples remaining, I found a lovely, simple, and tasty recipe in the current issue of Harrowsmith Country LIfe Magazine (October 2008). I made it last night to rave reviews, and will probably double it to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my inlaws tomorrow.

Apple Cream Cheese Squares
recipe by Darlene King, Food Editor at Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine; I’ve added my notes in parentheses

Pastry base:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
1/3 cup sugar (I used slightly less, and if you have vanilla sugar in a jar, so much the better, even with the addition of the vanilla below)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (6 oz.) butter

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese (1 package, softened at room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 cups sugar (again, I used just a bit list)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (this worked out about four large apples, and I used Macintosh)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I used more for good nutty coverage…)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly butter the sides of a 9″ by 9″ baking pan and line the bottom with parchment (I buttered the entire pan and omitted the parchment, because I forgot to buy another roll last week, and it worked fine).

Place the flour, sugar, vanilla, and butter inthe bowl of a food processor and whirl until crumbly (I don’t like using my food processor for this sort of stuff so I just whisked the dry ingredients together and worked the butter, and then vanilla, in by hand; fast and easy and nothing extra to wash). Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan and, using your hands, press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and set. Remove fro th oven and cool briefly on a rack.

Place the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth (again, I left the food processor on the shelf; instead, I cut up the softened cream cheese into small bits, put it in a medium bowl with the sugar and vanilla and mixed it with my handheld mixer, then added the egg and beat more until the mixture was smooth). Spoon/pour the mixture over the cooled pastry base.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, sprinkle over the sliced apples, and toss lightly with a fork. Arrange the apples over the filling (it doesn’t matter how you arrange them because the nuts will cover them). Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the apples (this is where I found that 1/4 cup of nuts wasn’t enough and added more so that you couldn’t see the apples underneath). Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving. (Though you might like to taste it while it’s still a bit warm from the oven…).

(The fallback camera, a little Olympus FE-210 we won in a raffle, appears to be working, though anything taking with the Kodak is still stuck in there)

My idea of a vacation

I just finished reading Corby Kummer’s account of “Dining with Dionysus” from the September 2008 issue of The Atlantic, about his visit to the Greek island of Kea for cooking courses offered by Aglaia Kremezi* and her husband Costas Moraitis.

Heavenly, from the description of the relaxed and relaxing course —

Many courses are intensive and technique-heavy. This one isn’t. Instead, it is designed as a week that will give you a very enjoyable view of a culture, and demonstrate the equation every cook should know: simplicity + necessity = great cuisine.

and

More than long kitchen sessions, convivial meals on the stone terrace under a grape arbor and long afternoon hikes and boating excursions are the order of the week.

to the description of the meals —

like the lamb chops from a neighbor’s animal, rubbed with a Middle Eastern spice mixture and grilled over a wood fire (always a good way to grill lamb; single-cut chops are the best to grill, for easy lifting and plentiful burnt bits).

(But then I had my sweet sixteen party at a Greek restaurant.)

Best of all, as usual, there is a recipe. This one is for risotto with orzo, grated zucchini, lemon, and feta:

It’s foolproof, and can be adapted to any number of vegetables you find at the farmer’s market or (overgrown) in your garden. It shows how crumbled feta becomes a thick, creamy sauce that absorbs and amplifies other flavors—and what a difference the two cornerstones of Greek cooking, olive oil and lemons, can make to a seemingly familiar dish.

To serve six as a main course or eight as a side dish, heat seven to eight cups of chicken or vegetable broth or, if you don’t have broth, water. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and add four or five cloves of peeled and thinly sliced garlic and four cups of diced or grated zucchini or yellow squash. Sauté, stirring, for 10 minutes over medium-high heat; the squash will exude a good deal of liquid. Add 1/2 cup of white wine, a pound of orzo, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir to coat the pasta with oil. Pour in three cups of broth and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently and adding more liquid as needed. The pasta can be al dente, for the risotto effect, or cooked completely through, as you like.

Remove the cooked orzo from the heat and add 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, three tablespoons of grated or shredded lemon zest, and 1 1/2 cups of feta cheese, mashed with a fork (and now: magic sauce). Buy the least salty feta you can find (if you get the feta fetish, as you should, order several of the barrel-aged fetas from http://www.zingermans.com), and save some of the crumbs for garnish. Snip over the risotto whatever combination you like of fennel fronds, fresh dill, and mint. That is, let the garden tell you how to season an irresistibly Greek, and simple, dish.

You can read the entire article here.

* Corby Kummer on Ms. Kremezi’s cookbook here.

Summer links

Some summery links in honor of the Solstice:

To Eat:

Homemade Ice Cream Drumsticks, from Nicole at Baking Bites. And don’t miss Nicole’s Summer Fruit Recipe Index.

Yesterday Tom found strawberries at the store almost as tasty as the ones from the garden, so he stocked up. It will be a strawberry weekend. I’ve also been thinking about the tall iced coffees my mother, sister, and I used to enjoy at the outdoor café at Lincoln Center, and if we’re making fresh homemade strawberry milkshakes, I just might make myself a coffee milkshake.

To Read:

Two of my favorite mystery writers have new books out for summer: Ruth Rendell’s latest Inspector Wexford mystery, Not in the Flesh. And Lawrence Block’s latest John Keller thriller, Hit and Run (out next week). Both reviewed in The New York Times tomorrow by crime doyenne Marilyn Stasio.

I heard Gretta Vosper on a CBC radio call-in show the other week, plugging her new book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe. Sounds especially intriguing for those intrigued by the ideas of John Shelby Spong. Rev. Vosper is a pastor at Westhill United Church in Toronto, and founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity. Not for everyone, certainly provocative for some, but eye-opening and thought-provoking.

I realize I’m probably the last one to stumble onto the news, but I just discovered the other week that James Mustich, of the late great Common Reader book catalogue, is the editor-in-chief of the Barnes & Noble Review, the big bookseller’s online publication. I’ve been having fun going through the lists and reading the reviews.

Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations by Susan Sessions Rugh. My idea of a summer vacation has always been enjoying the comforts of home while everyone else clears out, whether home was the Upper West Side or rural western Canada, where for some reason even the farmers decamp for the lake on the weekends. And growing up in NYC, we didn’t have a car and my parents didn’t drive. But there’s something oddly appealing about this nostalgic look about seeing the USA in your Chevrolet back when gas was cheap and families stayed together for the summer. I enjoyed The Washington Post review by Sue Kovach Shuman, who includes the tidbit that “the Ford Motor Company even promoted its sedans as ‘America’s schoolhouse on wheels’ “, but fear the title might be “too American” for our library system.

To Watch:

Mediterraneo” on DVD, sent to us by my parents. Thank you very much! Tom has heard me babble on and on about the movie and will finally get to see it this weekend

To Listen to (otherwise known as music to garden to):

Make Someone Happy” by Sophie Milman

Half the Perfect World by Madeleine Peyroux

Barenaked Ladies’ “Snacktime“, and not just for kids either.

Chocolate truffle cake with chocolate caraque

Laura’s cake for her 4H baking project,

Chocolate cake recipe from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham (13th edition, p. 565, Family Favorite “Chocolate Cake”).  Decorator’s chocolate buttercream recipe and chocolate caraque (chocolate curls) recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter.  Chocolate truffle recipe from Su Good Sweets

It sold at the silent auction for $50, which is earmarked for spending at the dollhouse store (highly recommended, especially for Canadians), so she’s a pretty happy little girl.  She was also commissioned to bake another cake just like it.  Laura tied with a couple of other kids for highest score on the displays and highest price for cake sale, and 4H is done till Fall (hurray!), so we celebrated last night roasting hot dogs at the fire pit and going to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Tom and I thought it was fairly weak — I especially didn’t like all the computerized effects — but the kids certainly enjoyed their first crack at Indy, especially on the big screen.

Confections for cold afternoons

I’ve been meaning to share one of Laura’s new, easy 4H recipes, perfect for frosty December afternoons — homemade marshmallows.

I’d been intrigued since first hearing Martha Stewart talk about them — who knew you could make marshmallows, and that they were made out of real food? — but they seemed so darn complicated. I tend to prefer dessert recipes that don’t require me to keep an eye out for the “hard ball stage”, and much as I enjoy kitchen chemistry, I’ll leave cooking for engineers to hardier souls; though the pictures at the website are handy, especially if you don’t have the chance to watch a bunch of 4H kids in action.

However, I was delighted to learn that in the capable hands of Laura’s club leader the other month, the recipe is amazingly simple. So simple that we were able to duplicate the results on our own the next weekend, which was a good thing because Daniel and Davy quickly ate up the samples Laura brought home. Unlike most of the other recipes I’ve seen, this one includes no candy thermometer, wet pastry brushes, or corn syrup (in fact, a grand total of five ingredients — water, sugar, gelatin, vanilla extract, and salt).

They’re not only easy to make, but much tastier than the store-bought version. Especially if you insist, as we do, on gilding the lily — rolling them in toasted coconut or crushed candy canes, or dusting with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and either cinnamon or cocoa (and you can make chocolate marshmallows by adding a tablespoon or two of cocoa to the recipe below). You could substitute the vanilla extract in the recipe below with some peppermint flavoring, too. My favorite way to serve, and eat, the marshmallows is to cut them in largish pillowy squares and roll them in toasted coconut, served alongside rather than in my hot chocolate. The kids like theirs with crushed candy cane, which does look spiffy before it starts to melt in the mug (see photo). By the way, homemade marshmallows make a lovely — inexpensive too — homemade Christmas present, especially tucked in a bag with a container of Ghirardelli hot cocoa mix or drinking chocolate.

Easy Homemade Marshmallows

Mix together (I do this in the measuring cup):
2 packages of unflavored gelatine (for example, Knox brand)
½ cup water

Then mix together in a large pan and heat over low/medium heat until dissolved:
2 cups white sugar
½ cup water

Add gelatin mixture to pot with sugar mixture, and bring to a boil.

Remove pan from stove and cool, for about 15-20 minutes. While you’re waiting, you can grease an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan with butter, vegetable oil, or Crisco and then dust with confectioner’s sugar; I’ve also had good luck greasing the pan, then lining it with wax or parchment paper and greasing it again, with a final layer of confectioner’s sugar. Then to the cooled mixture add

½ tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

With a hand mixer (or you can transfer the entire mixture to the large bowl in your stand mixer), beat the mixture until it’s white and thick and looks like Marshmallow Fluff.; this should take about 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and let the marshmallows set until cool. Either tip the marshmallows out (you may need a knife or spatula) or pull out and peel off the wax/parchment paper. Cut into squares, roll in toasted coconut, cinnamon, or more confectioner’s sugar. Serve on a cold afternoon.

Holiday links and hijinks, and gingerbread

over at Jealous of Gingerbread. Lots of holiday fun, or, as it says on the sidebar,

You’ve found the holiday hotspot…
Santa’s favourite hangout…

Here you’ll find all sorts of cool Christmas and holiday fare, from Holiday trivia, to Seasonal “must haves” tons of Christmas crafts, news, links to other seasonal sites and a few extra special goodies and exclusive Jealous of Gingerbread ideas and printables.

No gingerbread here today, though. Yesterday was dark fruitcake and Swedish Christmas bread. Today I’m trying some more of the Swedish bread but with almond flavoring instead of yesterday’s cardamom. Though I’ll have to make some more of that since one of yesterday’s loaves has already disappeared, with big crummy grins from the kiddies.

Fruitcake weather

I know my parents for certain and probably some readers consider the more severe winter temperatures up here (-18C this afternoon, around 0 F, and with a bitter wind) “fruitcake weather”. As in, suitable only for fruitcakes like us, content in the ice and snow and it’s not even December yet, for Pete’s sake.

But when I think of of “fruitcake weather”, I think of one of our favorite wintertime, holiday books, Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, published in 1956 with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If you can, find the children’s edition, with beautiful Rackhamesque illustrations by Beth Peck and an accompanying audio CD read by Celeste Holm, who is welcome here any afternoon for a cup of tea or coffee and a plate of fruitcake. If you prefer, you can listen to Capote himself read the story. But we prefer Ado Annie. (Much as I also prefer Capote’s writings the closer he sticks to home, but that’s another thought for another day.)

This is how it starts,

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable — not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate, too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”

The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something. We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together — well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other’s best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880’s, when she was still a child. She is still a child.

“I knew it before I got out of bed,” she says, turning away from the window with a purposeful excitement in her eyes. “The courthouse bell sounded so cold and clear. And there were no birds singing; they’ve gone to warmer country, yes indeed. Oh, Buddy, stop stuffing biscuit and fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat. We’ve thirty cakes to bake.”

And if you’re a fruitcake fan, and perhaps especially if you’re not yet convinced by the merits of fruitcake, you might want to have a look at this recipe from Gina’s Gingerbread; I think I’d use dark rum rather than Grand Marnier, and the darker the chocolate the better.

Semicolon’s November Recipe Round Up

Sherry at Semicolon has put out a call for a Recipe Round Up she’ll be hosting later this month, on Wednesday the 14th. As Sherry explains,

The November Recipe Round-up count down begins here and now! The category is Holiday Recipes, and I’m specifically looking for those special Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hannukah recipes that make your family’s celebration a little richer and those that get you all into the holiday spirit.

The date of the Round-up is Wednesday, November 14. Just post your recipe on your blog and then add the address URL of your post to the Mr. Linky below. Old posted recipes are welcome, too, as long as they fit the category. Please link back to this post so that others can know about the round-up and add their holiday favorites. Also, feel free to add links to recipes posted on other people’s blogs as well as your own. If you have a good recipe that fits the category of holiday recipes, but you don’t have a blog, email it to me or leave it in the comment of this post and I’ll post it right here for you on the day of the round up.

Look for the complete collection of holiday recipes to be posted here by 10 PM on the 14th.

As Sherry writes, Mr. Linky is already set up, so you have no excuses not to start thumbing through your favorite family recipes. Thanks, Sherry!

UPDATED to add: I read the fine blue print at the bottom of Sherry’s post and learned that this month’s Holiday Recipe Round Up is in fact part of the established Recipe Round Up; you can read all about it at the Recipe Round Up Information Page at Rebecca Writes. And just so you know, next month — that would be December already — Rebecca will be hosting a Recipe Round Up featuring “cookies and such-like”. Mmmmm….

Taking the chill off, with Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

In need of some cheering up after that sad business about happy endings , I decided to make Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake with pears, from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th edition). Very nice for fall, by the way, or to jazz up a simple autumn supper of venison sausages, creamed garden potatoes, garden tomato salad, and home-pressed cider.

Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake (makes one 8- or 9-inch cake, square or round)

12 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. powdered ginger [I use 1 tsp. and also add 1 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of allspice]
½ tsp. salt [I use just a pinch, and I omit it entirely if I’m using salted butter]
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small pan, add the brown sugar, and stir over low heat until blended. Pour into a square cake pan and arrange the pear slices in the pan; set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger and any other spices, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

Melt the remaining 8 tbsp. (4 oz.) of butter in a small pan [I use the same small pan from before]. Remove from heat, add the milk and egg, and beat well.

Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour over the pears and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate, fruit-side up. Serve with whipped cream [or vanilla ice cream, or a drizzle unwhipped heavy cream] if you wish.

There, I feel better already. Don’t you?

PS The above recipe is also very nice — especially if you’re a gingerbread purist who requires molasses in your gingerbread — if you substitute one of Laurie Colwin’s recipes, such as this one from Home Cooking, adapted from the Junior League of Charleston’s The Charleston Receipts (first published in 1950), though admittedly she likes her gingerbread more gingery than I do:

  • Cream one stick of sweet butter with ½ cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add ½ cup of molasses.
  • Beat in two eggs.
  • Add 1½ cups of flour, ½ tsp. of baking soda and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste, but I like it very gingery). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of ground cloves and ¼ tsp. of ground allspice.
  • Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy*. If you don’t have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add ½ cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin [buttering not necessary if you make the upside-down cake version].
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for between 20-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes have passed). Test with a toothpick/cake tester, and cool on a rack.

* Lemon brandy: “a heavenly elixir easily homemade by taking the peel from two lemons, cutting very close to get mostly zest, beating up the peels to release the oils and steeping them in four ounces of decent brandy.”

Dessert time

For Karen, because it’s chocolate, it’s as easy as a boxed mix, and a six-and-a-half year-old can make it (also a mother with a head cold and cough who needs to put dessert on the table for company now):

Wacky Cake (from The New York Times, sometime in the early 1990s…)

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
⅔ cup vegetable oil
2 cups cold water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a 9-by-13-inch cake pan [I do ours in a 9×9 or 10×10 metal pan], mix all dry ingredients with a fork; be sure to get in the edges. Smooth them out and make three holes. Put the vinegar in one hole, the vanilla in another and the oil in the third. Then cover the whole thing with the water. Mix it all up with a fork until the lumps are gone.

3. Bake 40 or 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

And some autumnal treats from Baking for Britain, one of my favorite baking blogs, inspired by the 30-pound box of apples in my kitchen (next to the 30-pound box of Bosc pears, to be canned and poached, and the 10 pounds of Oxheart plums — and yes, they do look like bloody hearts):

Welsh Harvest Cake (Teisen y Cynhaeaf), best served warm

Apple Gingerbread with Cinnamon Icing

Herefordshire Cider Cake

Dorset Apple Cake

The pears, and all this talk of chocolate, remind me that it might be time for Laurie Colwin‘s chocolate pear pudding recipe, which she originally found in Josceline Dimbleby’s Book of Puddings, Desserts and Savouries (out of print but still sounding delightfully English and onm the verge of made-up), “a treasured text now falling apart. … The recipes are uncomplicated and delicious.” The recipe as Laurie Colwin wrote it up in More Home Cooking,

You peel, core, and slice think (or cut into chunks) 1 pound of pears, which you arrange on the bottom of a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with sugar, and dot with about 2 tablespoons of butter. You then mix together ¾ cup floor, 1 generous tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder, a scant ¾ cup dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup (now generally available), 1 large egg, beaten, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and ¼ cup milk and beat it all into a batter. The whole performance takes about 20 minutes. Pour the batter on top of the pears and bake the pudding for 45 to 50 minutes in a 325 F. oven. This pudding can be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature and is especially good with ice cream.

Look what I just found: two of my very favorite things together, Laurie Colwin on Chocolate.

Poetry Friday: Happy Winter Fudge Cake

While editing my last comment on the previous post for too many italics (I forgot to turn them off), I discovered Elizabeth’s comment yesterday in last month’s Solstice post, asking for the Happy Winter Fudge Cake recipe mentioned. I’m happy to oblige, especially because it includes a bit of poetry.

(PS If you you ever have a question, please just email me offblog at the address to the left under the meadowlark; Blogger doesn’t notify me about new comments, so if I haven’t checked on an old post, which I rarely do, or tried to fix one of my mistakes at Haloscan — which is what I did last night — chances are any questions will languish.)

Here’s the passage about the cake (you have to imagine tiny pictures of butter, sugar, mixing bowl, beaters, etc. printed right after each line, just as it’s done in the book) from Karen Gundersheimer’s Happy Winter, followed by the recipe on the facing page:

“Happy Winter, time to bake
Some really yummy kind of cake.
So Mama flips through recipes
Just like she does for company
And reads them all — her favorite ones
Are Sunshine, Marble, Angel, Crumb.
But we pick Fudge, and no nuts, please —
Now tie on aprons, roll up sleeves.

The butter, sugar, eggs go in
A mixing bowl, then beaters spin
To stir up yogurt, thick and sour,
With baking chocolate, salt and flour.
The batter’s made, the oven’s set,
The cake’s popped in, and then we get
To scrape the bowl and beaters, too —
Last licks for me and slurps for you.
The timer pings! The cake is done —
Let’s slice it up and all have some.”

Happy Winter Fudge Cake

Please ask a grown-up to help you make this yummy cake.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Grease tube pan (9-1/2″ x 3″)
3. Cut up 3 squares semisweet baking chocolate. Melt over very low heat or in double boiler. DO NOT BURN. Set aside to cool. [I use the microwave; follow directions on the Baker’s chocolate box.]
4. Get a medium-sized bowl and mix dry ingredients (with wooden spoon):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

5. Get a big bowl and mix wet ingredients (with electric mixer):

2 eggs
1/4 cup soft butter or margarine, cut into small bits [please, please, choose the butter]
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
Cooled melted chocolate (from step 3 above)

6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring with spoon to blend.
7. Add 1 cup chocolate chips. Stir them all in.
8. Pour batter into greased pan and place in preheated oven (350 F)
9. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cake may need another 5 minutes.
10. Let cool 30 minutes before turning out onto plate.
11. Slice it up and enjoy.

I bought the late, great Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking shortly after it was published in 1993, and ran across Happy Winter at one of our library’s semiannual sales about five years later, shortly after Laura was born. It became an instant favorite for each of us, probably more for me since she was so young and I found something terribly sweet and nostalgic about the book. Since I reread Colwin’s cooking books every year, it didn’t take too long to twig to the fact that, omigosh, we have a copy of Happy Winter. As happy as I was to own what Laurie Colwin calls the “small, charming volume”, mostly I’m delighted to have one small link to her life and an even smaller way of keeping her alive. Here’s what Laurie Colwin had to say about the book and recipe,

You never know where you will find a recipe. They are often hidden in unexpected places. I did not anticipate finding a chocolate cake in a children’s book, but in a small, charming volume titled Happy Winter, written and illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer, I did. This book, which was one of my daughter’s early favorites, tells a story in rhyme about two sisters on a snowy day. when they have finished playing dress-up and going outside to make snow angels, they come indoors to help their mother make a fudge cake. The recipe is given in rhyme and then written out on the facing page. It is easy, wholesome, and delicious and has now become my daughter’s standard birthday cake.

[Recipe]

I make this cake in a springform tube pan with a scalloped bottom, and so it has a lovely scalloped top when it is is turned out. If you own one of those fancy cake-decorating kits that come with a pastry nail and dozens of tubes you will never use because you can’t figure out what they do, for this occasion you might produce some passable-looking roses and scatter them among the scallops, connecting them with green leaves. (Leaves are easy compared to roses.) The result is eccentric looking in a sort of demented Victorian way, but this cake is a hit with children who do not mind an uniced cake if it has tons of sugar roses. (A good rule for any birthday party is: a rose for every child.)

Really, what more could you ask for on a snowy winter day than a bit of Laurie Colwin, some Karen Gundersheimer, and fudge cake? Happy Winter, Elizabeth!

PPS Elizabeth, Happy Winter is sadly out of print. If you check Abebooks, you can find the original 1982 hardcover edition as well as the 1987 paperback reprint around $10 including shipping. Much as I prefer butter to margarine, I say go for the hardcover, which is just plain nicer and lies flat for following the recipe.

***

First round-up of the year, courtesy of Elaine, is chez Blue Rose Girls. Thanks, Elaine!

Bread again

The other day in my bread post, I wrote

The whole rising process is perfect if you’re homeschooling or farming; you can make your dough, set it to rise and go off and do something else. If you’re longer than an hour, don’t worry; the longer rises give more flavor and also make recipes using more whole wheat flour (or all whole wheat flour) more tender; you can let dough with lots of whole wheat flour rise for 6-8 hours.

So I was happy to see that in today’s New York Times, foodie Mark Bittman, author of one of my favorite cookbooks How to Cook Everything (not entirely accurate but still quite comprehensive), in his weekly “Minimalist” column has an article called The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work. The article is based on a class Bittman took with New York bread baker Jim Lahey, from the Sullivan Street Bakery (no longer on Sullivan Street, though), who calls his method “a truly minimalist breadmaking technique that allows people to make excellent bread at home with very little effort. The method is surprisingly simple — I think a 4-year-old could master it — and the results are fantastic.” The recipe is in today’s Times too, and calls for an 18-hour rising period, which allows for an awful lot of reading, or farm chores.

When I get the chance, later today, I’ll post my favorite (non-Bittman, though) no-knead, long-rise bread recipe…

Hat tip to my mother for letting me know about the article this morning.

Updated, as promised: One of my favorite whole grain whole wheat bread recipes, with which I use our own stoneground organic whole wheat is from the “Breads” volume of the (now out-of-print but widely available at a garage sale near you) Time-Life “The Good Cook” series, and is originally from Doris Grant’s Your Daily Food: Recipe for Survival; Mrs. Grant popularized her loaf in England during World War II to encourage working women to eat well despite food rationing. From “Breads”:

Because it is high in bran content and low in gluten, whole wheat flour calls for special breadmaking methods. For a light-textured loaf, whole wheat dough either must be allowed to rise for six to eight hours or must be made with a large proportion of gluten-rich all purpose or bread flour. For a dense-textured loaf such as the one shown here, whole wheat dough must be moistened until it is almost as soft as a batter — a tactic that not only softens the bran, but also obviates any kneading.

To speed rising, the read is made with more yeast than usual. And the yeast is nourished with sugar, honey or molasses so that it begins to grow vigorously before it is mixed with the flour. Prepared this way, the yeast will cause the dough to rise to half again its original volume in 20 to 30 minutes.

For the rising, the dough is spread evenly in the dish or pan in which it will bake. After it is baked, the fully cooked bread can be given a crisp crust by moving it to a baking sheet and returning it to the oven for 10 minutes or so.

And here’s the recipe:

The Grant Loaf (makes three 9″x5″ loaves)

10-1/2 cups stoneground, whole grain whole wheat flour
2 packages (2 tbsp.) dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
5 cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp. brown sugar, honey, or molasses

Mix the salt with the flour. In very cold weather [probably not a problem for those of us in North America with central heating], warm the flour slightly — enough to take off the chill. Place in a cup 3 tbsp. of tepid water, sprinkle over it the dry yeast, and leave for several minutes for the yeast to soften before adding the sugar, honey, or molasses. In about 10 to 15 minutes this mixture should have produced a thick, creamy froth.

Pour this into the flour mixture and add the rest of the water. Mix well — by hand is best — for a minute or so, working from the sides to the middle, until the dough feels elastic and leaves the sides of the mixing bowl clean. The consistency should be such that it will just drop off the spoon.

Butter three 9″x5″ loaf pans and leave them in a warm place. Divide the dough, which should be slippery but not wet, into thirds and place these in the warmed pans. Put the pans in a warm place, cover them with a cloth and leave them for about 20 minutes, or until the dough rises to within half an inch of the rims of the pans; if you leave the rising dough too long it can sink again in which case you are best mixing again and letting it rise a second time, otherwise the loaf will be either hollow or soggy. Bake the loaves in a preheated 400F degree oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until they sound hollow when rapped on the bottom. When bread is done it should come away from the sides of the tin easily. Tip out onto a wire grid to cool.

I’d like to try the ingredients of the Grant Loaf with Jim Lahey’s methods, especially the longer rising time, though I’d try with a reduced recipe for one loaf only in case of the hollowness or sogginess problem. If I do, I’ll post here about the results.

Possibly better than bread

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, from Nic at bakingsheet. What else is there to say beyond thank you?

Bread

Last week Melissa in her new Lilting House, inspired by JoVE’s post on meaningful work (who was in turn inspired by Melissa, but that does turn things into a funhouse mirror, doesn’t it?), solicited bread baking advice and recipes, which turned into two posts, here and here, and don’t miss the comments. And then those two posts turned into today’s Impromptu Mini-Carnival of Breadmaking!

Since I didn’t want to overload the comments section, I sent Melissa my thoughts in a separate email. Then I realized I had an almost complete blog post and just as I was thinking about fixing it up and posting it, lo and behold appeared the bread carnival, which couldn’t be any more appropriate to our weather and imminent Thanksgiving preparations. So here it is, with a few small changes and additions (just to keep Melissa on her toes), and apologies for recommendations for those books which, as usual, seem to be out of print:

  • Yes, a big wooden board is just fine for kneading. If it’s really big and heavy, it won’t move. Just to be sure, you can keep it in place by putting a tea towel underneath (if dry doesn’t work, just moisten it lightly). But don’t knead for more than 15 minutes, which will make your bread tough.
  • When you go yeast shopping, you’ll find regular old dry yeast and “rapid rise” which works without “proofing” (mixing with liquid); buy the first. You don’t need rapid rise, regular will do; besides “proofing” is fun, quick, and counts as a science experiment for your kids. And when you buy the regular dry stuff, either in the little packets or in a small canister (more economical, even if you bake bread for only a few of the winter months), keep it in the freezer next to your coffee and popping corn to keep it alive and happy.
  • You don’t need to sift flour, for bread (or any baking for that matter) if you measure it properly, which means never scooping directly with the measuring cup, but dropping the flour into the measuring cup and then scraping off the excess with the flat side of a knife. Voila, one less kitchen implement.
  • The fancy pans from Williams-Sonoma, Pampered Chef, etc. are nice but not really necessary. For example, stoneware pans when you have lots of lively kids and lots of helpers tends not to be the most practical material. Pyrex is nice because you can see what color the crust is on bottom, though glass (and enamel) pans need to be baked at a lower temperature and (along with dark tin and dull aluminum finish pans) gives bread a thicker crust. The nonstick pans may not be all that good for you and don’t give a very nice crust. Of course, if you make free-form oblong or round loaves, all you need is your regular cookie sheet. If you don’t have any bread pans and don’t want free-form loaves, you can also use a casserole dish, a big coffee can, a cast iron frying pan, or even a clean flower pot. If you find you like this bread baking business, and you do it regularly, and you like the loaf shape for sandwiches, then you might decide to invest in several nice metal stacking loaf pans (and maybe hint for gifts of fun extras from places like King Arthur Flour, which I heard from my father over the weekend still does send free, beautiful, and wonderfully helpful and inspiring print catalogues. You can also see if you can find a supply of inexpensive baking pans at a nearby restaurant supply shop.
  • The whole rising process is perfect if you’re homeschooling or farming; you can make your dough, set it to rise and go off and do something else. If you’re longer than an hour, don’t worry; the longer rises give more flavor and also make recipes using more whole wheat flour (or all whole wheat flour) more tender; you can let dough with lots of whole wheat flour rise for 6-8 hours.You can make the dough in the morning, let it rise until after lunch, then shape it (or punch it down and let it rise again) and let it rest for another hour or more — good if you have rest time or readalouds — before baking. Of course, it’s ready around dinnertime, and the tendency is to gobble the delicious loaf with the meal, leaving nothing for breakfast. Which is why you want to bake at least two loaves. You can also make the dough at night before bed, let it rise overnight, and have it baked either before breakfast or lunch (you can refrigerate it overnight too if you wish). Bread dough is incredibly flexible and forgiving and not at all scary. Like knitting, which so many other home educating mothers do, and which I just can’t seem to figure out…

One of my favorite baking cookbooks is the Harrowsmith Country Life Baking Book, edited by Sandra J. Taylor; that’s where the following recipe is from, and just a note that it requires bread flour, which you can find at the supermarket (bread flour is great because it helps make sure you get a nice light loaf, especially important for the confidence of beginners). This is a nice basic loaf, good and simple for beginners.

Old-Order Amish Bread (makes two 8-1/2″ loaves; if you want more, just double the recipe)

1 package (1 tbsp.) dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oil (safflower, canola, sunflower, etc.)

Stir yeast into water and set aside for 5 minutes.

In large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, and oil. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and blend well. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Dough should be elastic but not sticky.

Turn out onto floured surface and knead about 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl and rotate to grease top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Punch down dough, cover again, and let rise again, for 45 minutes. Punch down and knead again. Divide into 2 pieces, shape into loaves, and place in two greased 8-1/2″ loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until dough is 1″ above pan rims, about 40 minutes.

Bake in preheated 400F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake 25 to 30 minutes more. Remove from pans and cool.

From the same cookbook, for Felicity fans, which includes my daughter and I think at least one of Lissa’s; requires whole wheat flour, a little rye flour, and cornmeal:

Early Colonial Bread (makes two 9″ loaves)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water (you may have to help with this; it makes Laura nervous…)
1/4 cup oil
2 packages (2 tbsp.) dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
4 to 4-1/2 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (bread flour makes a lighter loaf)

Combine cornmeal, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl. Add to pot of boiling (boiled) water, and stir continuously (but gently) to prevent lumps. Add oil and set aside to cool to lukewarm, at least 30 minutes.

Mix yeast and the lukewarm water. Stir into cooled cornmeal mixture in large bowl, then add whole wheat and rye flours, mixing well. Add enough flour, by the half cup, to make a moderately stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turn over to grease top, cover with tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch down dough and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased 9″ loaf pans. Let rise until doubled.

Bake in preheated 350F oven for 45 minutes. Cover loosely with foil after the first 25 minutes if browning too rapidly.

If you decide to tackle larger amounts, I like this recipe from Mrs. Restino’s Country Kitchen by Susan Restino; it doubles easily:

Whole Wheat Bread (makes 3 loaves)

In a small bowl mix:
1 cup water, room temperature
2 tbsp. dry yeast
1 tsp. molasses

Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until foamy. Then pour into a large bowl, along with
3-1/2 cups tepid water
2 cups milk
1/2 cup molasses (you can play around with reducing the amount)
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp. salt

Mix in (but no need to knead at this point):
10 cups whole wheat flour (I grind our own organic wheat to make flour, but that’s a whole other post)

Cover and set to rise or double in one hour. Then beat down and add, one cup at a time, beating after each addition,
7 to 8 cups unbleached white flour (or whole wheat flour if you prefer)

Knead and add flour as needed until the dough becomes smooth and workable. Knead an extra 10 minutes. Cover and let rise again, for 1 hour. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Grease 3 loaf pans. Shape loaves and let them rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400F, but turn down to 350F as soon as you put the loaves in to bake. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from pans to cool 2 hours before storing.

Some more postscripts to my original postscript, though as rule I’m not keen on “children’s cookbooks”; I think they can learn more from a regular, adult cookbook:

Loaves of Fun: A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World by Elizabeth M. Harbison, with illustrations byJohn Harbison; I bought this last year to go along with our chemistry studies, and it’s been loads of fun. I think this was a recommendation from Concierge at the sadly now-defunct Itinerary for Marlette & Giuseppe…

The Kids’ Holiday Baking Book: 150 Favorite Dessert Recipes from Around the World by Rosemary Black, which I tripped over at BookCloseouts; breads, cookies, cakes, and more, for many holidays (though not Guy Fawkes’ Day; if you want some wonderful Guy Fawkes ideas and recipes, visit Karen at lightingthefires, who was literally lighting fires yesterday in celebration).

And in closing, from the prolific Louis Untermeyer via my falling-apart copy of The Joy of Cooking,

“Why has our poetry eschewed
The rapture and response to food?
What hymns are sung, what praises said
To home-made miracles of bread?”