two skinny jenkins

090729 – French Bread | BBA #14
090729, 5:21 pm
Filed under: BBA Challenge | Tags: ,

hand written

Taking it back to the old school…

As in hand written recipes!  we are moving out this FRIDAY.  We have disconnected our internet and I have returned my library borrowed Bread Bakers Apprentice book.  I feel like i have really stepped back in time; baking homemade bread without my laptop by my side.

This will be my last post from this kitchen.   I just have to stop making a mess in the kitchen.  Not to mention that there really aren’t enoough ingredients left to make anything… Fortunately this was a very simple recipe (ingredient-wise).  I made the pate fermentee a couple days ago and have kept it in the fridge.  The dough ball had definitely doubled while it was sitting in there.  I think it would be interesting to try (though maybe a waste of flour) making french bread without this starter.

My pizza stone broke a week ago so i just baked the loaves on the pan that they proofed on after shaping. One thing i would do differently is spaced the loaves at least 3″ apart when on the pan.  The second thing i would have done differently is make BIGGER SCORES in the loaves!  Because i had placed the loaves too close together, i had a hard time manuvering my knife around to score them.  In the end, they still look okay, but not as dramatic and delicious as they could have.

Final Loaves

check out more photos on FLICKR!


090726 – Focaccia | BBA #13
090726, 12:58 pm
Filed under: BBA Challenge, DINNER | Tags: ,


Challenge #13 – woo hoo!  I feel a little guilty about skipping the Cranberry Celebration bread, and I still plan to get back to it one of these days…

This was the best bread yet.   Joe would agree.  Before starting this blog or joining the BBA chalenge, i made a whole lot of focaccia.  All the recipes i made were the one day variety, some i crunched down into about 2 1/2 hours prep + baking time.  The 2 day preperation really makes a difference and is well worth the extra time.  This is the best focaccia we have ever had.

I made the ‘regular’ focaccia recipe (not the poolish or pizza style version).  I made about 1/4 to 1/3 C of herb oil, in which i used basil, paprika, rosemary, and thyme. For the drizzle on top of the bread before baking, i added 4 cloves of minced garlic.  I sauteed a small red onion sliced thin for my pre-proof topping, sprinkled sea salt on top for my pre-baking topping, and threw on some grated asiago cheese 10 minutes into baking.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a baking sheet with a lip to it, and as you can see I was pretty lucky that it didn’t spill over in the oven.  I have a little confession to make  here… i didn’t let the bread proof for the full 3 hours that PR called for before baking it.   After dimpling down the surface so that the dough was 1/2″ thick, it sat for about 1 1/2 hours before entering the 500°F oven.  Over that time, i did manage to rise to about 1″ thick.  I think sitting over the hot oven helped to accelerate this final proofing process and the dough did manage to rise to the desired 1″ thickness.

So far, we have been eating the focaccia every night (with no sign of getting tired of it) and making little sandwiches on it for lunch.  At this rate, I think I will be able to make French bread this Thursday before we move out for GOOD on Friday!

Here is the link for my Flickr photos!

090723 – Movin out + Mac n’ Cheese
090723, 8:49 pm
Filed under: DINNER | Tags: ,

mac n'cheese n'brussel sprouts

This is what cleaning out the fridge looks like for two skinny jenkins.  Macaroni and cheese is an old reliable recipe in our house. The brussel sprouts were doused in ketchup immediately after taking this photo.

here’s the recipe: link.  The only change is tonight i used half cheddar and half asiago cheese, and sprinkled a little extra asiago on top.

090721 – Anniversary Cake
090721, 9:48 pm
Filed under: DESSERT | Tags: , ,

Anniversary Cake

Today was Joe’s and my two year anniversary, and I wanted to mimic our wedding cake as a gift to Joe.  I found this recipe on that sounded just right.  Of course, i had to improvise a little bit, as usual. It took nearly all day to make.  I wanted to make sure that i did things right and gave the cake sufficient time to cool before decorating.

The cake was way too heavy.   This is the second cake i have ever made in my life (the first being my father’s birthday cake back in April).  I guess i should have known that pound cake was heavy.  The texture of the pound cake was all wrong for this otherwise light and fruity flavored cake.  If you couldn’t tell, this was nothing like my wedding cake.

The Cake:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 C low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 C cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C sugar
  1. Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cake pans and line bottom of each with a round of parchment or wax paper. Grease paper and dust pans with flour.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk together flour and salt in another bowl.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in bowl of stand mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour and egg mixtures alternately in 3 batches, ending with egg mixture and mixing until just incorporated.
  4. Divide batter among pans, filling each one to 1 inch from top. Put 12-inch pan on upper rack and other pans on lower rack 20 minutes. Gently turn pans around and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cakes comes out of each with a few crumbs adhering, 10 to 20 minutes more, depending on cake size. Transfer each one as done to a rack to cool.
  5. Cool layers slightly (12-inch layer for 20 minutes), then invert onto racks. Peel off paper, turn cakes right side up, and cool completely.
  6. Put each layer cut side up on a plate. Brush tops generously with syrup. Stir jam until smooth, then spread about 1/3 cup on one layer. Invert another layer (on plate) onto jam.  Spread about 1 cups frosting on top of layer. Scatter a layer of blackberries over to cover frosting. (If berries are 1 inch or larger, first halve them lengthwise.) Slide the third 12-inch layer, syrup side up, onto berries (discard cardboard) and press down gently. Spread about 1/3 cup jam on layer and invert last 12-inch layer (on cardboard) onto jam, discard cardboard.
  7. Spoon 1 1/2 cups frosting onto top of 12-inch tier and cover cake with a thin coating.

Lemon Syrup:

  • 1/2 C lemon juice
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C water
  1. stir sugar into lemon juice until fully dissolved and add water.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 (8-ounce) packages neufchatel cream cheese, softened
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 box confectioners’ sugar
  1. mix cream cheese on medium speed in an electric mixer until soft.
  2. add butter and sugar (slowly) and mix on low speed until fully combined.
  3. keep refrigerated, pull it out of the fridge about 10 min. before applying to the cake to soften.

090721 – English Lunch
090721, 2:35 pm
Filed under: BBA Challenge, LUNCH | Tags: , , ,

English Lunch

I had planned a 4 course dinner for our anniversary, but with moving out in 3 days, we are working on clearing out our fridge, not add to it.  There was only one thing on the menu that used ingredients we already had, English Mint-Pea Soup.  With it, I toasted one of my English muffins from the BBA Challenge this week.

chilled minty pea soup:

  • 1 C low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 C shelled peas, plus more for garnish
  • Salt
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring buttermilk to a boil over medium heat.   Add peas and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Puree in immersion blender with mint leaves and cool in the fridge (or freezer if in a time crunch) until chilled.
  3. Garnish with mint leaves and freshly ground pepper.

090719 – English Muffins | BBA#12
090719, 10:08 pm
Filed under: BBA Challenge, BREAKFAST | Tags:

English Muffins

Today I found some striking similarities between the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge and marathon running.  Dedication, endurance, and (most notably today) repetition.  Turning the page in the book for the challenge this week I saw yet another sweet celebration bread.  It was like turning the corner on a long run to see ANOTHER hill to climb.  Although i have enjoyed all of the breads so far, Joe doesn’t really like the sweet ones and we have had a hard time trying to finish them.  It seemed like a waste of flour to make (essentially) the same thing twice.  So i skipped it.

On to challenge #12: English Muffins

These English muffins were really fun to make.  The dough was simple – after making 10 other Rinehart recipes I have a pretty good handle on mixing and kneading dough.  This time i even did my windowpane test!

I was, however, a little intimidated by the cooking process.  The idea of frying dough in a pan was foreign to me.  I ended up using our square and round cast iron skillets simultaneously to get as many muffins cooked at the same time as possible. It felt like juggling; frying and immediately baking as many muffins as possible.  I’m not sure why my muffins were so puffy, but at least they were nice and fluffy inside.  I think baking for 8 minutes was just right.

After fully following the recipe, the only thing i would do differently is to make 7 or 8.  As you can see, I made 6 as the recipe called for, and they are pretty big.  There was no temperature control on  the skillet, and after reading PR’s warning about under-cooking the muffins, i ended up burning the first two.  After I started eye-balling the brownness level, and relying less on elapsed cooking time, they turned out well.  I used lowfat buttermilk instead of whole milk and it gave them a nice, almost sourdough taste.

As usual, check out more photos on FLICKR.

Windowpane Test

090719 – tequila lime popcorn
090719, 9:00 pm
Filed under: SNACK | Tags: ,

Tequila-lime Popcorn

Thank you 101 Cookbooks! (click link for recipe). I would have never thought to make this otherwise.  I didn’t have any jalapenos on hand, and we are moving in a week so i didn’t want to go buying anything new.  I just added a couple of dashes to substitute the spiciness.

Honestly, though, i had a little trouble executing this recipe properly.  I think.  When i poured the buttery-lime mixture over the bagged popcorn, it got almost immediately absorbed by the pieces on top.  When shaking the paper bag, the remaining pieces only got moderately moistened when they brushed against the soggy top pieces.  The pepper mixture distributed pretty well.  Baking at 350 F for 7 minutes didn’t even come close to drying out the soggy pieces.

My next popcorn endeavor will be salt and vinegar, which i sampled post-race at the Charlottesville Ten Miler this year… Hopefully those won’t be so soggy.