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.

breadbowldough

  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!).

 

A Marriage Cake

Eight years ago, I married my best friend.

What I remember most about that day, the thing that sticks most resiliently in my mind, is how adamantly I wanted to be married.  I was done with the pomp and circumstance of the wedding before the wedding had even begun.  And it wasn’t like we had a big wedding – it was very intimate, a day shared with our closest friends and family.  A rainy, October day on a beach in St. Augustine with a very casual reception afterward.  But as I stood in the bridal suite, having my corset laced and my picture taken, all I could think about was getting on with the marriage part of the deal.  The wedding was nice, but I wasn’t nearly as excited about that as I was about spending the rest of my life married to my best friend.  Maybe I’m weird.

And marriage hasn’t disappointed.  I mean, sure we’ve had our ups and downs.  It’s not perfect, but I never expected it to be.  I knew it would be work – in a Tim Gunn, “make it work” kind of way.  There are good days and there are bad days, but they are our days.  Our days to take on together, as a team.  The successes and the failures, the happy and the sad – we meet them all head on, a united front.

This year, our anniversary fell on a rainy, gray Tuesday.  He had to work, and I was home with our youngest all day.  We’d been out to a restaurant the Saturday prior – a kind of pre-Anniversary celebration since we had overnight child-care in the form of my husband’s parents (yay for in-town grandparents!).  But I wanted to do something, however small, to celebrate the actual day.

I had commented as we drove back from dinner on Saturday, discussing where we should stop in for dessert, that I wished we could find an 8-year-old wedding cake top tier.  Not that I think there should be a bakery that specializes in moldy old cake – that’s just gross.  But there is something nostalgic and fun in sitting down together to share that top tier of your wedding cake on your first anniversary.  In subsequent years, you just don’t have anything quite that special.

As I stood in the kitchen yesterday, laughing quietly to myself at the thought of a bakery with lighted glass display shelves lined with stale, moldy cake (the mind does tend to wonder), it came to me.  I’d bake a marriage cake.  A small, intimate 6-inch cake.  Nothing elaborate, just a simple everyday cake to celebrate our every day, all day, lifelong marriage.

To get the ratios for a single, six-inch layer, I turned to Dessert for Two, a blog dedicated to reducing dessert recipes to a quantity fit for two people to consume in one sitting.  I went with the cake recipe for her Better Than Sex Cake, subbing whole-wheat flour and honey granules for their more refined counterparts.  I didn’t have any pineapple, and my husband doesn’t care for shredded coconut, so I improvised on the topping.

I glazed the tiny cake with a mixture of buttermilk (1/2 cup), sucanat (1/4 cup) and rum (teaspoon) that I cooked together until the sucanat dissolved.  I then stirred in a tablespoon of cold butter to thicken and enrich the glaze.   Once the cake had cooled, I poked holes in the top and drizzled the glaze over top.

I frosted it with a cream-cheese based frosting: 4 oz. cream cheese, 2 tablespoons softened butter, 2 tablespoons honey granules, 1 tablespoon agave nectar, 1 teaspoon rum.

In a lot of ways, this was the perfect cake to eat on an 8th wedding anniversary.  It’s not terribly refined, it’s a little rough around the edges, and it’s got a little bit of a sour edge to it from the buttermilk and the cream cheese.  There is a bit of sweetness, though, and the sweetness has some depth to it, from the darker sucanat in the glaze and the honey granules in the frosting.  And there’s just a hint of something fun and flirty peeking through from the addition of the rum.

Despite its unrefined appearance, I served it up on some of our fine china.  And we shared it, just as we did that top tier seven years ago.

I think I’ll make this a tradition – baking a single tier for us to share on our anniversary.  I’m sure the cake will change, just as our marriage will change (for the better, I hope), but I love the idea of taking the time to share something sweet together and to reflect on the reasons we fell in love in the first place.

Marriage Cake
adapted from Dessert for Two’s Better than Sex Cake

  • 1/4 cup solid coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey granules
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon rum
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1 teaspoon rum
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cold

Frosting

  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey granules
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon rum
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease and flour a six-inch round cake pan
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, using a handheld mixer, cream together the coconut oil, butter and honey granules until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the rum and mix to combine.
  4. Add the egg and beat to incorporate
  5. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt
  6. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, until just incorporated
  7. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
  8. For the glaze, combine the buttermilk, sucanat and rum and cook over low heat until sucanat dissolves
  9. Off the heat, add the cold butter and whisk to incorporate – it should make the glaze a little thicker and shiny
  10. Once cake is done, allow to cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn it out and allow it to cool all the way before glazing
  11. Once cooled, poke holes in the cake and pour the glaze over top.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  12. For the frosting, combine the cream cheese, softened butter and honey granules.  Beat on high until light and fluffy and honey granules are dissolved.  Add the agave and the rum.
  13. Frost the cake.
  14. Enjoy!