Cooking and Baking

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Hello Tuesday!

Though we are healthy and lucky in so many ways, yesterday was a hard one. I felt as though I was hearing all the bad news of the past months in a single violent wallop, sending every last marble skittering every which way and rendering me helpless to capture them. I am not normally someone who needs a drink, but boy howdy, a prickly pear margarita has never tasted so good nor made such quick work of smoothing all the jagged edges. Gratitude is the word.

Greg and I continue to make our mostly solitary way, going out for provisions every ten days or so and avoiding people, restaurants, and coffee shops. So when we got a craving for burgers, I tried my hand at brioche buns and perhaps ruined us for eating a burger anywhere else. They were simply amazing.

I’ve also come to realize how much my eating reflects this place that is home: the Southwest. Like grits in the South, salmon and berries in the Pacific Northwest, my diet is so utterely centered around green chile, eating it nearly every day, including on the burger.

Greg looking positively adorable AND excited for peach pie and cinnamon-sugar twists with pie dough remnants. Darn tasty!

Green chile again! We topped an open faced breakfast sandwich with brioche (the same batch as the buns), bacon, and cheddar. The breakfast of champions.

Stumbled upon this “lady” on one of our walkabouts. Speechless.

Everyone in our neighborhood taking COVID-19 seriously….

Hope you are well. HUGS….

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How cute is Greg enjoying a prickly pear margarita last weekend? I made tamales, red chile, and Anasazi beans to go with them, which was marvelous and photographed poorly, but who really cares with that dazzler of a smile?

How are you? We are at day 15 without leaving the house besides a dog walk. Our food supply is pretty good, except for fresh produce, with three apples, three carrots, and one jalapeno and poblano left. We have plans to get rid of our thorny blackberries (OUCH!!) and replace them with lettuces and spinach, maybe some carrots, too. Though I am sincerely hoping it will be a bonus rather than a necessity, but who knows? These are such strange times.

Our health is good, some sniffles after a super windy walk yesterday, so hoping that doesn’t equate to anything serious. I am worried for my friends in the medical profession, as they are already having meetings about not having enough personal protective equipment to get through the crisis, despite government reports saying there are plenty to go around. And then there is every last person suffering financially. I know my prayers mean not a whit, so we are helping those we can how we can. May it be enough to sustain them until government money arrives.

This is Texas Sheet cake, also made last Sunday (p.s. – If you decide to try it and don’t like a cloyingly sweet cake, cut the sugar in half – you won’t regret it!). My friend Whitney was the first (maybe only?) person to make it for me, way back when I was a whippersnapper of twenty-two. I remember being in her kitchen on Albion Street in Denver, us chatting while she washed dishes, waxing poetic about how easy and delicious it was. I hit the pause button the moment she said it contained cinnamon. My rather unworldly upbringing had never-ever put cinnamon and chocolate together. How weird would it be? Would I like it? The answer was a resounding yes, and now, twenty-six years later, I cannot recall the number of times I have made this fabulous flavor combination.

After lamenting the soy flour contained in the blue corn pancake mix we bought in Santa Fe, I ordered some plain blue corn flour (masa) from Gold Mine and made a batch of pancakes the day the box arrived at our door. They were delicious! If you’d like to try your hand at them, they’ve been added to my long list of pancake recipe combinations that can be found here. Enjoy!

Feeling grateful for our every day walks, this beautiful city, and every moment that makes me smile, like this wee one on his way to work!

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with the news, I think on my light and inspiration, my Great Aunt Mary (who would have been 112 on St. Patrick’s Day!). The oldest of seven, she lived through the death of every one of her siblings, save my Grandma Tess, by 1975, the youngest at the age of twenty-five.

Her faith was boundless, and she was the most selfless, loving, and giving person I have ever known. Though she suffered many a heart break and disappointment, she never let her feathers ruffle, never uttered an unkind word. A smile was never far from her lips, nor a chuckle or a prayer. She walked her talk to the utmost!

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Hi there! More food, ha!

This was Saturday’s pizza, which was truly the BEST I’ve ever made, as in as good as Lombardi’s in New York City. The crust was light and chewy and the flavor perfectly balanced, a little yeast, a little salt. There was many a delicious sigh between the pair of us, I tell you.

What made it so good? Primarily, I think, the rise. I made the dough on Wednesday afternoon, with a very minimal knead (one minute or so, really just until it was no longer shaggy) before popping it into the fridge in a sealed glass container. I tried this to see if it would have the texture I like and be less of a bear on my tender tummy. With all I’ve learned about lectins and all that jazz, it seemed logical that the long rise would predigest a lot of what ails me. We’ll have to see, long term.

It rose only slightly in the fridge. Friday before bed, I took it out and set it on the counter, and it doubled in size by the morning. I made the pizza for lunch, and when I took it from the container it was bubbly and springy, like the New York dough of my dreams.

Another reason I think it was so fantastic is the fact that I started using a baking steel. I had a baking stone for a long time, but it was small and fragile. When I researched options online, this was much larger, pretty much unbreakable, and everyone who used the steel raved about it. It’s not cheap and weighs 15 pounds (!), but after considering the fact that my old stone was my third and could break at any moment, it seemed a smart investment. Boy howdy, was it.

Since I didn’t feel like grappling with it each time I wanted pizza, I left it in the oven when I bought it last year and haven’t taken it out since. As a result, I’ve ceased blind baking many of my pie crusts, as the heat of the steel is enough to do the job. More reason to LOVE it.

The pizza crust is crispier than it ever was on the stone, and I put it on a cooling rack while everything sets up to maintain the texture. I really cannot rave enough!

If you’d like to make your own, here’s my dough recipe, which makes two 10 – 12″ pizzas and can easily be doubled or tripled:

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 2/3 cups flour – all purpose or bread

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. If it doesn’t foam, start over with water that is a little cooler. If it still doesn’t foam, your yeast is probably dead and you’ll need to get to the store, pronto. Mix in olive oil and pour over the flour and salt. Mix with a spoon or your hands until it comes together, then knead until the dough is no longer shaggy but not entirely smooth. Put in a bowl with enough room to at least double in size and cover tightly. Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours, preferably 60 to 72. Punch down dough and divide into two balls. Roll, stretch, or cajole into your desired shape and thickness.

Top how you like. I mix a small can of tomato paste with garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt, until it tastes right, and divide it over the two pizzas. I only use fresh mozzarella, it’s got the best flavor and texture to my taste. A note, if you prefer using fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce (rather than the paste) and also use fresh mozzarella, this is A LOT of moisture. Go easy with the sauce and any other moisture laden topping, like mushrooms, the first time around. You really don’t want a sad, sad soup on top. The voice of experience talking, here. But don’t fret if it happens, you’ll get the hang of it!

Bake at 550 degrees, preferably on a steel, until it’s perfect. For me, it’s when the tomato sauce bubbles madly, usually about 4-5 minutes. Cool for a minute or two on a rack. Cut and eat and feel the JOY that is pizza!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song goes. I collected fallen limbs out walking, bought a few decorations (the cute trees are from Target!), and pulled out favorite treasures, so the house is nicely decked out and smelling lovely!

I also did a massive day of holiday sweet baking and making, with Biscochitos, Mexican Wedding Cookies, peanut butter yo-yos (which Daddy calls little burgers), pinon & rosemary caramels, amaretto & walnut fudges, cream cheese mints, and peppermint marshmallows. We’ve eaten and quite enjoyed a lot, but thankfully shared the majority to avoid sugar comas.

This past weekend, we enjoyed a little road trip to Denver to spend time with some of our favorite people. It was quite the whirlwind of tasty food, killer cocktails (Bananas & Bourbon!), games, and lovely company. As is often the norm at this time of year, it was frigid and sunny, with the bustle of humanity as jolly as the skies. We also had an easy drive both ways, which is always nice.

Just because they are so darn cute. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

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We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.

David Mamet

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Delicious recipe here

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