Pie, to Fill the Void {Buttermilk Crack Pie}

Well, friends, once again I’ve left this space feeling lonely and neglected.  No excuses, other than work and children and life.  Where once this was my escape, now it sits forlorn, waiting.

I suppose everything has its season, and maybe the season for this blog has past.  I don’t know.  I think I’ll keep it around for days like this, when inspiration hits, and I have something worth sharing.

This recipe for Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie(r) has been floating around the interwebz for a few years now.  I have to say I didn’t really pay it any mind until Bon Appetit featured it a couple of months ago. And then, a few days ago, they went and ran a piece on Desperation Pies making a comeback.

And so, that’s where the idea for this crazy marriage between buttermilk chess pie and crack pie was born.  It’s a little bit salty, a little bit tangy, and a lot sweet – just the way I like it.  The only thing I can find wrong with this recipe is the fact that you have to wait overnight to dig into the finished product (I, of course, couldn’t wait and tried cutting it while it was still warm.  It was a delicious ugly mess).

It was so good, it brought me back to this space so that I could share it with you.



Servings: 10 to 12

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 4tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Begin by making the oat cookie crust.  Preheat oven to 350F and line a 13x9x2 inch metal pan with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Place 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons white sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Cream on high for 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add oats, flour, powder, soda and salt and mix to combine.  Pat dough into prepared pan, spreading evenly, and back at 350F for 17-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

crumbsCrumble cookie as finely as you can, and work the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter into the crumbs so that when you squeeze them together they form a ball.  Press cookie crust into a deep-dish pie pan. Prepare filling.


For the filling, combine sugars, buttermilk powder and salt.  In another bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, melted  butter, egg yolks and vanilla.  Pour over sugar mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.  Pour filling into prepared pie shell and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then reduce oven to 325F and bake for 20 minutes more (or until filling is mostly set).  If the edges start to get too brown, shield with foil.


Remove pie from oven – the center may be a little loose still (it will continue to set up).  Allow to cool to room temperature.

crackpiesugarDust with powdered sugar.  Place, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours to rest. crackpieeatEnjoy!

I Like Big Buns and I Can Not Lie {Whole Wheat Flax Sandwich Buns}

hamburger fries
Oh, my god, Becky. Look at that bun. It is so big!

For some reason, the title of this post has been stuck in my head for far too long.  In fact, I think I said it to a friend a month or so ago (you know, in my best Sir Mix-A-Lot impression) and she looked at me pityingly and said “you know it’s actually ‘I like big butts‘, right?”  And, yes, I do know that.  But for some reason every time I think of hamburger buns (my anaconda don’t want none), this song goes running through my head. 

I’m weird.

But, I’m also persistent, and that’s why I’m bringing these big buns to you today.  Because I’ve been working on them on and off for more than 2 years, and I think I’ve finally gotten them right.

inside bun

I’ve been trying for a soft, tender whole-wheat hamburger bun since I started grinding wheat and baking bread.  It’s been a challenge – they’re either too dry, too tough, too dense, too something.  These, though, are nice and light, with enough structure to stand up to a nice “thick and juicy” burger or a sloppy barbecue sandwich.

This recipe starts in the bread machine, and finishes on a baking sheet in the oven.

pile o' buns

Whole Wheat Flax Sandwich Buns

yields: 12 3.25 oz. buns


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 Tablespoon milk
  • 1 egg
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 3/4 Tablespoons Sucanat (or sugar)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/3 cups freshly ground hard white wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup ground golden flax seed meal
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast


  1. Place ingredients in the pan of your bread machine in the order listed.
  2. Turn on the dough cycle
  3. Once the dough has been mixed, kneaded and been through two rises, remove the pan from the bread machine and divide the dough into 12 equal portions.  It might be a little sticky – that’s okay.  Simply coat your hands with a little olive oil to make handling easier.
  4. Roll each portion into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or sprayed with cooking spray.  Flatten them slightly when you place them on the sheet.
  5. Spray the tops with cooking spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap
  6. Place in a warm area to rise for another hour
  7. Once they’ve risen, preheat your oven to 375F
  8. Brush tops of buns with an egg wash (one whole egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds, rolled oats, poppy seeds or the topping of your choice (optional).
  9. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool before slicing.
  11. Enjoy!

Baby got back.

Almost a Year Later….{Pretzel Bread Bowls}

I had no idea last February that I would be taking nearly a year off from this place.  It wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened.  Life got busy, and at the same time I lost the compulsion to document every meal I cooked or ate.  Every so often I’d come over here with the intention to write something, but I didn’t really have the focus or the drive to actually do it.

Meanwhile, I started working full time at a job that I have grown to truly enjoy.  I do a lot of writing there, and am allowed to be creative and somewhat autonomous, and I think that has filled the space that used to be filled by my efforts here.  Maybe.

I want to keep coming here, though, and sharing with those of you who still check in from time to time.  It may not always be recipes or food, but I’ll do my best to make it meaningful.  I’ve got lots of fun projects on the horizon in my life: I’m leading the team that’s planning a learning garden at the school I work for, I got a Vitamix for Christmas that I’m having a blast learning to use, I’m heading to Ireland with the family in April, and I’m still trying new things in the kitchen from time to time in an effort to expand and enrich my children’s food vocabulary.  So thanks for sticking around and for being patient as I try to figure out how to balance everything that’s going on.

vitamix1So, the Vitamix.  I’d been wanting one for a while, and finally bit the bullet and bought a Certified Reconditioned model.  I’ve only had it for a couple of days, but so far I LOVE IT.  Tonight I made the Harvest Cheddar Soup from the Vitamix website.  It’s crazy – the blender actually cooks the soup.  I didn’t really believe it myself until I tried it.  It’s like magic – ingredients go in cold or room temperature and come out steaming hot.  Right now I’m just trying recipes that are from the cookbook that came with it, or that are on their website.  Knowing me, though, I’m sure I’ll be making stuff up in no time.  No worries – I’ll do my best to share that stuff here.

breadbowlreadyIn the meantime, here’s something fun that I made to go along with that Harvest Cheddar soup – Whole Grain Pretzel Bread Bowls.  I used the Beer Pizza Dough recipe from my breadmaker’s cookbook as a jumping off point.

Whole Grain Pretzel Bread Bowls

yield: 6 bowls

  • 12 oz. beer
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Egg white (for glazing)
  • Course salt

This recipe starts in the bread machine, but is baked in the oven.  If you don’t have a bread machine, you can use an electric mixer or knead by hand.


  1. Place beer, butter, sugar and  salt in the bottom of the bread machine’s loaf pan
  2. Add the flour on top.
  3. Create a small well in the center of the flour.  Add the yeast to the well
  4. Set the machine to the “dough” setting and let it do its thing (mine takes about 2 hours for kneading and two rises)
  5. When it’s done with the second rise, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
  6. Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll them into balls
  7. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or greased foil
  8. Allow them to rise while you preheat the oven to 375F
  9. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg white and sprinkle them with course salt
  10. Just before baking, slash the tops of the rolls in a cross pattern using a sharp knife
  11. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes, or until tops are very brown and they sound hollow when you tap them.

breadbowlcutOnce they’ve cooled most of the way, cut the tops off using a serrated knife.  Set the top aside (it’s good for dipping in soup later).

breadbowlspoonScoop the insides out with a spoon.  I put all the bread that scraped out into a zip-top bag and put it in the freezer to use later for bread crumbs.

breadbowlreadyEt, voila! 6 individual bread bowls just waiting to be filled with Harvest Cheddar-y goodness.

breadbowlwithsoupThese would also be good as little bowls for dips, filled with chilli, cheese fondue, or just about anything else that you might like to dip bread in.  They were a big hit with my family, and are a fun way to make soup a little more interesting (you get to eat the bowl at the end!).


Ode to the Humble Sprout {Brussels Sprout Pizza}

If you had asked me two years ago how I felt about Brussels Sprouts, I probably would have made some horrid face and said something along the lines of: “they’re too bitter,” or “ugh – gross, tiny cabbages are funny looking and should be outlawed” or maybe even “DIS-gusting. Blech.”  Which is mature.


Had you told me two years ago that Brussels Sprouts would be my favorite dish at an upscale Steak House, or that I’d be preparing them weekly for my family, I most likely would have laughed at you.  Maniacally.

But, ‘lo and behold, you would have been right.  Have I mentioned that I hate it when you’re right?  Except in this case, where I’m delighted, because now I have a whole new vegetable added to my repertoire.  And what a versatile vegetable it is.


You can roast it at high heat, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I could eat these little babies like candy.  Sometimes I’m not sure if they’ll even make it to the dinner table, since I just stand over the skillet and eat them one by one by one.  So good.


If they survive that, then I sometime serve them over pasta carbonara (in place of the kale).  They’re also good as a base in this garlic ginger chicken recipe.


Or maybe raw, in a shave salad with pomegranate arils and  pecorino romano cheese.  I made this at Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit.  It was a variation on this recipe from Food 52.

sprout pizza

Last night, though, I decided to try them on pizza, and I may have just died and gone to heaven.  Seriously, y’all – THIS is my new favorite way to consume Brussels sprouts.  And I do realized that I’m sometimes prone to hyperbole – but not in this case.  This right here is good stuff.

The sprouts get good and caramelized, which gives them a sweet, nutty flavor.  They sit on a base of heavy cream and mozzarella cheese, and are complimented by salty bacon and mild red onion.  The whole thing is topped off by sharp, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese, which just rounds out the whole experience.  I ate three pieces, and could have probably finished off the entire pizza, but I guess that might have been excessive (plus, my husband probably wouldn’t have appreciated it very much).

sprout pizza2

Pizza with Brussesl Sprouts, Bacon and Pecorino Romano

prep time: 10 minutes

bake time: 15 minutes

yields: 8 slices


  • Pizza dough for one pizza (use your favorite homemade or store-bought fresh dough)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, finely shredded
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F
  2. Roll out your pizza dough to a 12-inch diameter circle.  I’ve recently purchased a Zojirushi breadmaker, and have been using their pizza dough recipe (subbing freshly ground wheat flour for the bread flour the owner’s manual calls for). I can’t say enough good things about this machine, but will save the details for a dedicated post.
  3. Drizzle the raw dough with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and par-bake on a baking sheet in your preheated oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a pizza peel.
  4. Sprinkle the hot par-baked crust with the mozzarella cheese and evenly drizzle with the heavy cream
  5. Spread the sliced Brussels sprouts, bacon and onion evenly over the crust
  6. Sprinkle the romano cheese over the top of the pizza
  7. Using the pizza peel, transfer the pizza back to the preheated oven, placing it directly on the oven rack
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the sprouts have begun to caramelize (they will get brown and crispy on the eges).
  9. Enjoy!


Giving Thanks {Pear & Pistachio Cake}

Wishing everyone who’s celebrating today a peaceful and bountiful Thanksgiving.

In our house, we have a tradition of going around the table before the Thanksgiving meal and sharing something for which we are thankful.  So, in the spirit of tradition, I thought I’d give a little thanks here, as well.

I’m thankful for family, near and far; for friends old and new, for a roof over my head and more than enough food on the table; for a job that I enjoy and colleagues who I respect; for a husband who is kind and patient; for children who are growing and thriving; for a mother who taught me in word and in action how to be a good parent and person; for health; for freedom; for love.  I’m truly blessed.

Oh, and I’m thankful for this cake.  It appeared in a piece by Cathy Barrow in the October/November issue of Garden & Gun, and it was love at first sight.  I’m turning 38 on Sunday, so I decided to bake it in celebration of Thanksgiving/being two years shy of 40.

Let’s just say that this cake is monumental.   With 12 sticks of butter in a recipe that yields 12 servings, you’re only going to want to make this for very special occasions.  But make no mistake – you’re going to want to make it.  

Conceived by Stella Parks, pastry chef at Table 310 in Lexington, KY, and the author of BraveTart, this cake is a riff on a classic carrot cake.  Sort of.  In the headnotes for the recipe in the magazine, Parks is quoted: “My parents live in a home built before George Washington was president,” she says. “There are gnarled old pear trees out back—winter pears. Way too hard to eat, but they make a great cake.”  With three pounds of pears in the cake, and more for the pear chip garnish, the cake really highlights this seasonal ingredient.  Paired (peared?) with the pound of brown butter and an equal measure of pistachios, the flavors combine to create a warm harmony that sings of autumn.

It’s a little time consuming, but it’s well worth it in the end.  I promise – it’ll be one more thing to add to your list of things to be thankful for.

Get the recipe here:  Stella Parks’ Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake

Thinking of You {Molten Dulce de Leche Cakes}

I’d like to tell you I was thinking of you when I made this recipe.  I really would, because then, somehow, I could justify having eaten as many as I did.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t thought about much of anything lately except these cakes. And maybe (perhaps?) the fall/Halloween festival at my son’s school which has (maybe?) consumed my entire world for the last month (or three).  But also these cakes.

And now?  That the fall festival has come and gone (and there was much rejoicing!)?  I can focus on you (ahem, I mean, these cakes).

Because holy molten deliciousness, Batman.  These are good.  No, not good.  No.  These are sinful.  Evil, really.  Mostly because they’re much too easy to make.  If they were difficult or time consuming, I might not be tempted to make them again.  And again.  And again.

And it only gets worse.  You can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream for a truly ridiculous, over-the-top indulgence.  That’s how evil this really is.  But also?  Rich, and creamy, and gooey.  It’s really too good to pass up.  Terribly, awfully, sinfully good.

So see? I really was thinking of you after all.  You’re welcome.

This recipe entered my world via my Facebook newsfeed back at the beginning of the month.  It may have appeared in an earlier issue of Bon Appetit magazine, but I got it from bonappetit.com.   The ingredient list was comically short: 1 egg, 2 egg yolks, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of flour and a can of dulce de leche.  Mix and bake.

The only reason it took me almost a whole month to try it was I couldn’t find the canned dulce de leche they specified in the ingredient list (I wanted to try it exactly as written first – next time I’ll try making my own caramel).  I finally decided to check our local Wal-Mart of all places, and voila!  There, nestled on the top shelf, next to a variety of cans of la lechera, was a small collection of Nestle-brand dulce de leche.  I snatched up four, and scurried home to fulfill my month-long desire for these cakes.

You can find the recipe here.  I followed it to the letter, only deviating to add a pinch of salt to the batter before baking (next time I think I’ll add a bit more salt,  just because salted caramel is always better in my humble opinion).  I also didn’t have any 4-oz ramekins, so I used my 4-oz canning jars, and they worked like a charm.  We baked ours in a convection oven for 10 minutes, rather than the 12-14 the recipe specifies, and they were just right when they came out.  The whole thing only took 15 minutes start to finish, so you could easily whip these up at a dinner party (or just when you’re craving something sweet.  Like, right now).  I did mine in a stand mixer, but you could use a hand-held mixer if you don’t want to lug out your Kitchen Aid.  I would say you could mix them by hand, but you’d need to whisk pretty vigorously in order to get your eggs to double in volume.

Which, come to think of it, might mean you’d burn off enough calories to justify eating more than one of these little babies.  Not that anyone would ever be that self-indulgent.  Especially not me.

Enjoy (and Happy Halloween)!

Let Them Eat Brioche

This recipe may seem a little ill-timed, since tonight marks the end of the Carnival season and tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  If you’re making any sort of Lenten resolutions, you probably won’t be baking this any time in the next forty days.  However, it was too good not to share, so I thought I’d go ahead and put it out there for you debaucherous souls who might want to give it a go.

Given that today is Mardi Gras, I wanted to treat the family to some traditional gumbo and a Gateau des Roi.  I didn’t grow up eating King Cake, or really observing Mardi Gras at all.  As such, I have no reference for what makes a good King Cake.  As an adult, I’ve seen a number of different (shortcut) variations, including cinnamon roll-based cakes and crescent roll based cakes.  While I knew that these recipes that used processed and pre-packaged ingredients were probably not the most traditional versions, they did give me a basic idea of what a King Cake entails – rich buttery dough, stuffed with a sweet filling and topped with a sugary glaze

With some digging, I discovered that traditional King Cake consists of rich brioche bread, filled with cinnamon, almond paste or cream cheese and glazed with simple icing sugar glaze.  They are often sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sanding sugar to reflect the colors of Mardi Gras.  I figured if I could find a good brioche recipe, the rest would be a piece of cake (ha-ha).

For the brioche recipe, I turned to a trusted and reliable source: Michael Ruhlman.  The tagline on Ruhlman’s website is “translating the Chef’s craft for every kitchen,” and he does a skillful job doing just that.  His recipes are well tested, and you can be assured that you will find success if you follow his instructions.  I knew that any brioche recipe I found on his site would be delightful.  When I saw that it called for five whole eggs and twelve ounces of butter (that’s three whole sticks), I figured it could not disappoint.

Since I followed his recipe almost to the letter, I’ll suggest that you click on over to his site if you want to make it.  I did substitute freshly ground hard white wheat flour for the bread flour that he suggests and I used honey granules in place of the sugar.  I also shortened the second rise, choosing to let the dough rise in a warm oven for one hour instead of in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the brioche into a King Cake, I made a cream cheese filling, combining eight ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of honey granules, one large egg, three tablespoons of flour and the zest of one lemon.  I beat this all together until it was smooth.  After the dough had risen the first time (and doubled in volume – this took approximately three hours at room temperature), I punched it down and rolled it out into a long, thin rectangle.  I spread the filling evenly onto the rectangle and folded the dough over onto itself, pinching the edges to seal the filling inside.  I then formed it into a ring and placed it in a greased tube pan.  I covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm oven (preheated to 150F, then turned off) for about an hour.

To bake it off, I preheated the oven to 350F, baked the cake for 20 minutes uncovered, then 25 minutes tented with parchment paper (to keep it from getting too brown).  Once it was fully baked, I removed it from the oven, turned it out onto a cooling rack and allowed it to cool completely.

For the glaze, I combined 2 cups of powdered sugar with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, stirring to combine.  I added a 1/2 a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, then glazed the cake once it had cooled completely.

Even if you don’t make a king cake, I highly recommend this brioche recipe – it practically melts in your mouth it’s so buttery.  I can imagine using it for breakfast in french toast, or making a decadent croque-monsieur (or even more decadent croque-madame) with it.  In this instance, stuffed (albeit unevenly) with slightly sweet cream cheese and smothered with creamy vanilla glaze, it was the perfect way to top off our family Fat Tuesday celebration.

Now, what to do with the leftovers tomorrow?

Once More, With Granola

We’re coming up on a long weekend.  Our school system has been generous, giving the children not only President’s Day, but the Friday prior as well.  Four whole days in a row, and we’re taking advantage of it by going on a little road trip.

Most of you probably know that traveling with children can be tricky.  Some kids are great – strap them in a booster seat, give them a book, some crayons and paper, or a movie, and they’re good to go (that’s my oldest).  Some kids, on the other hand, require a little more, shall we say, attention.  They get wiggly, antsy, bored, and, last but not least, impatient.  This can manifest itself in many ways.  In our case, our youngest expresses his displeasure by yelling, throwing toys and kicking the back of the seat in front of him.  Also, he’s not much of a car sleeper, so this behavior can go on indefinitely.  Pleasant.

Sometimes, snacks help.  Actually, most of the time, snacks help.  If he has food, he’s pretty happy.  That’s why I spent most of this morning attempting, once again, to make granola bars.

I say attempting, because I’ve tried and failed with granola bars many times.  This time around was a semi-success, which is good because we’re leaving tomorrow and I don’t have time to try, try and try again.

I wanted these to be relatively nourishing, since they will be our primary snack of choice over the long weekend.  Whole grains in the form of rolled oats and freshly ground flour, combined with unsweetened dried cherries, a very ripe banana, some raw Tupelo honey (courtesy Savannah Bee Company) and sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane), along with a relatively small amount of expeller-pressed coconut oil and some toasted cacao nibs come together to create a nutritionally-dense granola bar.

Also?  Tasty.

Banana Split Granola Bars
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 40 minutes
yield: 12 bars


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1/4 cup expeller-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 very ripe banana, pureed
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.  Line it with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.
  2. Combine the oats, flour, salt, soda and cacao nibs in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, coconut oil, sucanat, banana puree, and dried cherries.  Cook for a couple of minutes, until coconut oil has melted and sucanat has dissolved.  The cherries should also plump slightly.
  4. Remove from heat and add the vanilla to the liquid ingredients.
  5. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  6. Press the granola mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 300F for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.
  8. Once cooled, remove from the pan and slice into 12 bars.
  9. Enjoy!

These weren’t perfect – they still managed to fall apart somewhat when I went to slice them.  However, the flavor is really good, and the texture is nice and chewy.  The cherries, cacao nibs and bananas combine to give a flavor profile reminiscent of a banana split – sweet, tart, chocolatey – without being dessert-like.  I think they would be especially good with a cup or so of chopped nuts thrown in (I left them out because my husband might decide to try them, and he’s allergic), and maybe a touch more fat in the form of butter, peanut-butter, or just more coconut oil (I think the fat helps to bind them at room temperature).

I think these, along with some popcorn and sliced fruit, will go a long way toward taming the beast-like child on our road trip tomorrow.  Which will go an even further way toward maintaining my sanity.  And that’s a good thing.

Bread, My Fickle Mistress

I’ve been baking all of our family’s bread for the last year, and it has been one roller-coaster of a ride. Every two weeks or so, I bake four loaves of bread.  My husband and oldest son eat a sandwich for lunch every weekday. Sometimes we have toast for breakfast.  Sometimes I just like to eat a piece of bread with butter for a snack.  We like bread.

When I first started the process of grinding all of our wheat and baking all of our bread, I was pretty successful.  I used this recipe, and it proved to be a good one for about the first six months.  Then something happened.  I’m not really sure what it was, but my loaves went from being light and soft to dense and hard.  The gluten didn’t develop, they tasted a little too yeasty and they fell apart easily when you tried to slice them.

But, I soldiered on.  And the boys were troopers – they kept eating their daily sandwiches on this failed bread-like substance.  I tried a variety of things to help remedy the problem – more liquid, less liquid, a different combination of flours (more red wheat, less white wheat, more kamut, some soft white wheat), honey vs. molasses vs. maple syrup vs. sucanat, butter vs. coconut oil – you name it, I tried it.  Every so often, I’d get a good loaf or two, but the next time I tried to replicate what I’d done, it was back to dense bricks.

I could even tell in the mixer that it was going to be a failure.  Instead of long, rubbery strands of gluten, the dough would just come apart in short, stubby wads.  Windowpane test?  Forget it. I was beginning to think that maybe bread and I just weren’t meant to be.


Then the other day, I saw this post for Oatmeal Sandwich Bread over on Art & Lemons.  She described it as “soft” and “pillow-like,”  and I knew I needed to try it.

Her recipe was based on one from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

Note to self: buy this book.  Soon.

Anyway, the recipe seemed simple enough, and it used a technique I hadn’t tried before – autolysis.  This is where you mix the dry ingredients and liquids together and let them rest for 30 minutes before adding the salt and kneading.  From what I gather, this allows the flour to better absorb the liquid, thereby allowing for more effective gluten development.

The first batch I baked came out perfectly.  Soft, pillow-like loaves with tons of flavor and a beautiful open crumb.

The second batch?  Yea – not so much.  Flat failures.

Bread, why do you hate me so?

But once again, I soldiered on.  I turned to ye olde interwebs to discover the source of my problem, and I think perhaps I’ve been overworking my dough.  It seems, based on a number of sources, that if you over-knead your bread or if you let it over-rise, the gluten strands can break.  Who knew?  I’ve been abusing my bread all this time. Here I was blaming the bread, when all along it was me.

This time, the third time really was the charm.  This bread is kind of spectacular.  I mean, if sandwich bread can be spectacular. I think I’m in love (again).

Whole Grain Sandwich Bread (adapted from this recipe at Art & Lemons)
prep time: 45 minutes
rise time: 2 hours
bake time: 30 minutes
yields: 2 1-lb. loaves


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey (could also use maple syrup or molasses)
  • 4 Tablespoons cultured butter, melted and cooled (could also use coconut oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups freshly ground hard white wheat, sifted
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt
  1. Combine water, honey, butter and yeast in the bowl of your electric mixer and let sit for 5 minutes so yeast can bloom
  2. Add the flour and oats to the water mixture and stir to combine.  Let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and knead in the mixer, using the dough hook attachment, for 6 minutes.  Dough will be a little sticky and should slap the sides of the bowl as it mixes.  It should be very elastic (long, rubbery strands of gluten) after six minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for one hour (I usually preheat my oven to 150F, then turn it off and set the bowl in the warmed oven).
  5. After an hour, the dough should have doubled in volume.  Scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Grease two 1-lb. loaf pans
  7. Divide the dough in half and knead one half a few times, forming it into a loaf-shaped rectangle.  Repeat with the other half
  8. Place the dough in the loaf pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap
  9. Let rise in a warm place for one hour, or until doubled in bulk.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350F
  11. Carefully remove the plastic wrap and transfer the risen loaves to the oven (take care not to deflate them)
  12. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating them after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for at least a couple of hours before slicing.
  14. Enjoy!

Winter. Finally. {And a Recipe for Dried-Apple Slab Pie}

Winter has finally found its way to Georgia.  After weeks upon weeks of unseasonably warm weather, sub-freezing temperatures have arrived with a vengeance. 

I can’t say I’m sorry.  I enjoy the warmth, but I also relish a cup of coffee by the fire, clear cold days and nights curled up under layers of blankets.  The fourth season is often a short one in Georgia, but I’d miss it if it chose to bypass us altogether.

The warm temperatures we’ve experienced up until now have led to some confusion in the garden.  I went out yesterday to cut back the asparagus ferns, brown and dry except for a few red and green berries that are still hanging around.  As I cut the stalks off close to the ground, and pulled weeds from around the bed, I noticed a couple of tender, fresh spears poking up through the dirt.  One of them was nearly white from having been covered over by a patch of chickweed, while the other was bright green tipped in purple.  I carefully cleared the space around them and left them to bask in the bright January sun.  I’m not sure they’ll survive the hard freezes we’re having overnight, but hopefully this bodes well for our spring asparagus crop.

The true onset of winter is signaled by a dearth of fresh fruits at the market.  There are still some varieties of storage apples available locally, but for the most part we’re seeing fruit that’s been flown in from far-flung places. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to dry a bunch of apples back in October.  When we received an invitation to dinner from some friends the other day, I knew just what I wanted to take as my dessert offering.

I had seen a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baking Banter Blog for an Apple Slab.  I was intrigued by this combination pie/bar/cookie concoction, so I pinned it on one of my Pinterest boards.   I used it for inspiration, but as usual I also made the recipe my own.  The original calls for fresh apples that you layer with bread crumbs and sugar and cinnamon between two pie crusts.  This appears to result in a firmer textured filling.  I was looking for something slightly more pie-like, but that could still be sliced into neat little squares.  Enter the dried apple.

  Dried-Apple Slab Pie with Caramel Glaze

prep time: 1 1/2 hours (allows for filling to cool and crust to rest)
bake time: 1 hour
serves: 12


  • 2 pie crusts (you can use store bought, or your favorite double-crust pie dough recipe)
  • 2 quarts dried apples
  • Apple cider to cover apples (approximately 1 quart)
  • 2 tablespoons sucanat (can use brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons water (to form a slurry)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Place dried apples in a large saucepan and cover with cider
  2. Cover and bring to a boil, allowing apples to rehydrate.
  3. Remove apples from the pan and place in a heat-proof bowl, leaving the cider behind in the saucepan.  Add the sucanat and cinnamon to the cider and return to a boil.  Slowly pour the corn starch slurry into the boiling cider mixture, whisking to avoid lumps.
  4. Boil to reduce slightly and thicken.  Remove from heat and pour over apples.  Refrigerate to cool.
  5. While the filling cools, make your pie crust dough.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350F
  7. Roll 1/2 of the pie dough out to a 9×13 inch rectangle.  Place it in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  8. Pour the cooled apple filling into the pan.
  9. Roll the second 1/2 of the dough out to a 9×13-inch rectangle and place on top of the apple filling
  10. Bake for 1 hour.
  11. While pie is baking, make the caramel.
  12. Combine the evaporated milk and honey granules in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil until it reaches the firm ball stage.
  13. Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla, whisking to combine.  Continue whisking until it begins to thicken and loose its sheen
  14. When pie has finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the caramel over the top.  Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
  15. Allow to cool, then slice into 12 squares.

What results is a juicy, tart filling between two flaky layers of pastry, and a creamy rich caramel glaze on top.  The fact that there’s only two tablespoons of sugar in the filling means the true flavor of the apples really comes through.  I had dried a combination of Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Arkansas Black, so the apples were all quite tart.  They balanced quite well with the sweet, buttery caramel. We ate ours plain, but I imagine it would be especially delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Or maybe even for breakfast with a piping hot cup of coffee.  Curled up with a good book in front of the fire, that sounds like an excellent way to spend a cold winter morning.