Friday, July 11, 2008

This one's for Judy!

Judy is the adventurous soul that sent my sister the information about artisan bread and the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. My sister sent the information to me, hoping I would figure it all out and show her the technique. Nothing easier – really!! Anyway, my sister, sister-in-law and I had a great time playing with bread (and all of us enjoyed eating it) and we almost always got a photo before the bread of the day was consumed. Almost… So, this one is for Judy, to give her some idea of what she started. I have shared this technique (and copies of the book) with the above mentioned sister and sister-in-law, along with two good friends who are off and baking. I have told co-workers about the technique and seen them hop on the bread wagon, too. It’s just too much fun not to share!!

Roasted red pepper pizza with mushrooms, herbs, and three kinds of cheese made with the basic dough.

Grissini (bread sticks) and peasant bread, made with a whole wheat enhanced version of the basic recipe.

This is the tapenade bread -- the photo is a bit blurry, but it was such a delicious bread I had to include it!! One note of caution, though. If you want any tapenade that goes into this dough left over to spread on anything, make a double batch of it.

Sun-dried tomato and Parmesan bread, made with olive oil dough.

Classic challah with poppy seeds (foreground) and dried tart cherry and toasted almond bread (background) made with the challah dough.

Roasted red pepper fougasse made with olive oil dough.

Calamata olive bread made with the basic dough.

Pan d'epi served with grilled wild trout (caught by my brother) and grilled wild asparagus (gathered by my sister and brother-in-law). Yum!

Pecan rolls made with challah dough are wonderful. These have a light honey topping in lieu of the sugary topping in the book with cinnamon and sugar swirled inside. It's a less sweet version of the classic sticky bun.

So, see what you started, Judy? Isn't it grand?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First, the Chicken Update!

Yes, I’ve been back from vacation for a little while, but I am just now getting caught up with things and I’m finally ready to catch up with the blog! Since I have had so many requests for information about the world famous chicken, she’ll be first on my list.

I got to meet her, this famous fowl. For a while there, she had been laying an egg nearly every day and ruling the roost (or at least the cocker spaniel) with aplomb. Then, without any warning, she nearly died (again), when she caught some kind of nasty avian virus or other. My brother stayed up with her for two nights running, force feeding her water and trying to tempt her with tidbits of this and that to coax her back to health and making her get up and move around, even though she didn’t want to budge. He wasn’t about to lose her after nursing her through the whole frostbite episode!! Apparently, she was acting like a boneless collection of feathers on the rug. After a few days of tender loving care, she started to look less limp and showed a little interest in eating on her own again.

By the time I arrived, she was still being fussy about what she wanted to eat. Chicken feed was always popular, but she liked tomatoes and fresh bread much better than cheerios, apples or fish, which had been favorites. She would demand tomatoes and bread, even jumping to snatch pieces from unsuspecting hands.

She finally has a name. Evidently, when my sister-in-law and her younger brother were small, they referred to these feathered farmyard creatures as ‘Cheekens’, with long emphasis on the double ‘e’. So, in honor of childhood antics, she has been dubbed Cheeken. She does exhibit a bit of cheeky behavior, so it’s not entirely out of character!! The poor cocker spaniel gets summarily pecked for straying into Cheeken’s food arena. She may have been particularly ornery because she was still feeling a little under the weather. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. So, they stay on opposite sides of whoever is handing out the snacks at the moment. And I am amazed by how much a chicken can eat!

Cheeken is also very sociable, at least with humans. She follows people around and talks to them constantly. She asks to be let out or in and waits with varying degrees of patience for someone to open a door for her.

She takes her decorative duties very seriously, taking frequent dust baths to keep her feathers shining, preening vigorously and finding particularly picturesque places to pose for general admiration. In short, she is a very entertaining little chicken.

Just as I was getting ready to hop in the car and head home, Cheeken went to her little nest box to try and lay an egg. By the time I made it back to Missouri, I heard that her first efforts since the great illness were shaped badly and had thin shells, but she’s doing fine now and is back to laying an egg nearly every day.