San Francisco Baking

On a recent trip to San Francisco, my kids and I stumbled across Arizmendi Bakery. The sign immediately caught my eye because the name and the type looked so BASQUE. Not very many Basques around, but I’m one of ’em (well, only a quarter, but that’s plenty!). We popped our heads in the door, inhaled the wonderful aroma of fresh breads and pastries, and even with my camera on the fritz I managed to trick it into taking a single photo of a large banner hanging from the ceiling:

Make Loaves, Not War.

We also ordered a giant cinnamon roll to share. yum.

You know what? It’s not every day that I choose peace over war. I should, I’m trying. It’s a much better occupation to bake a loaf of bread and share it with my family or neighbor than argue with my kids or the guy who cut me off any day.

Cheers!

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Chocolate Shortbread :: Recipe

I love these simple shortbread cookies–very English, not overly sweet, and maybe a tad bit addictive. I don’t make them often (the recipe is from my ancient Crabtree and Evelyn Cookbook), but when I do the leftovers are few, and the smiles and thank yous are many. These store very well in airtight containers, if you have that kind of self control. And the whole thing can be thrown into a food processor and mixed up in a instant, I’ve been told. Makes about two dozen, or more if you’re using small cookie cutters.

Time Commitment: About forty five minutes in total. Some to mix, some to cut out, and a few more minutes to bake.

Tools you need:

  • A cookie sheet or two
  • A cookie cutter or two (I especially like the hearts and the hippos)
  • an oven :)
  • large bowl and wooden spoon, plus measuring cups and utensils…

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted, butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • granulated sugar
What to do:

Step One: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in the cut butter and rub in lightly with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Step Two: Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix or knead until a smooth dough forms. (The recipe now calls for chilling the dough for 45 minutes, but I never do.)

Step Three: Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. (I cut the dough in quarters or thirds and work only with a small amount at a time, and I usually don’t even use a rolling pin, but just work it flat with my hands.)  Using a heart-shaped or other fun cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them on a baking sheet. (I use a small, sharp knife to peel the cookies off of the surface of the counter.)

Step Four: Sprinkle the cookies with granulated sugar, (or coarse sea salt!) then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm but not browned around the edges.

Step Five: Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool, invite friends over for tea and cookies, and enjoy!

Here are my hippos–on a leisurely walk to the local watering hole

Truly He is Risen

Christ is Risen!

That is our mantra these bright days, and I’m enjoying all the sunshine, the glimpses of sweet spring all around, the birds, the asparagus pushing their way out of the soil, the blooms on the blackberry bushes.

Now that Holy Week and Pascha have passed. Now that I’m chipping away at my to-do list, I’ll be back with you in this space, hopefully sharing some wonderful secrets–both baking and otherwise.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you as to your favorite baking recipes that involve  Easter. There are so many traditions, so many sweet breads and egg breads, and cheese breads that folks around the world love to make. Please share!

(And please pray for my camera, which has gone kaput. The photo above was taken with a friends’ on Holy Saturday… )

Sending you love.

 

Fair Game–Feed the Hungry–and the Disappearing Bread

So, it’s Palm Sunday and we had a giant potluck after church. My contribution to the potluck, since I’m barely good for sharing anything except bread (I really am an awful cook), was one gigantic no-knead loaf of bread that I mixed olive tapenade into. So, yummy. I also baked a smaller loaf of bread for a friend and brought them both to church.

I was so wrapped up in the Palm Sunday service and all its glory (and distracted by an extra squiggly second son), that I completely forgot to head out after communion and slice up that gigantic loaf of olive bread. Simply. Forgot. I rushed out right after announcements–after Father mentioned the upcoming potluck. Almost ran over a few folks standing in the back. And there were both of the loaves, cut, in the basket, and ready for the table. I sort of grimaced. Not because somebody had done my job, but because I really wanted to share that second loaf with a friend.

The grimace registered and my friends, the awesome bread cutters, grimaced, too. They felt bad–though it was all completely my fault. Fresh bread, left in the kitchen of a church that’s having a potluck, is more than fair game, right?!

Right!

So, we thought fast, placed some of the cut bread into a bag for my friend, left it on the counter, and joined the folks around the coffee hour table.

And here’s the mystery. When I brought my friend into the kitchen a half hour later to offer him the bread, the bag was there, but the cut bread was all gone.

Oh, well. It’s Holy Week and someone was hungry! Feed the hungry, clothe the naked. I pray it was enjoyed.

And, here’s the beauty of it all. I get to try again! There’s plenty of flour in my cabinet, plenty of muscle in my arms, and another opportunity available to give.

Sending you all love.

Seasons

It seems that I go in phases with my baking. Some seasons I find myself making batch after batch of rosemary rolls (which are sooooo delicious) and other seasons may find me hovering over new recipes and trying anything that has a foreign word in the title. I won’t try to figure out patterns, that would be silly (and time consuming!), but this season, I’ve noticed, has been all about the molasses bread and no-knead sourdough.

And look, here they are, all tidy, in one basket, ready to take to church for a Friday service, then soup dinner.

Do you have soup dinners in your life, too? Times when a community comes together to do something, then you all share a meal after that something? At our church, we become a tight knit clan during Lent, praying together often, not just on Sundays, and we follow some of those times of prayer–with food. Together, we can all enjoy the soup and the bread, and swap recipes, and generally try to boost and encourage our fellow journeymen.

Long ago, my husband and I played on a soccer team, and after every single game in the summer, we shared a meal at a team member’s home. I’m sure we played better on the field  because we broke bread together so often (we were the Red Hots!). Not only did we have Lucie, with her tough-as-a-bulldog-defending, but we had Eric, who made these amazing gooey chocolate chip cookies with pudding in them. Fun to remember those times, and how the soccer plus the food made us into a family.

Anyway, back to this Lenten season, this season of molasses bread and sourdough. Spring has come, and our yard is green all over–the plum tree has set fruit,

the callas and nasturtiums and succulents are in bloom,

and our favas are almost eight feet tall and covered with ripe and ready beans.

And I’ve been writing like a mad woman. I’ve been neglecting the house and scribbling stories about journeys, and hedgehogs, and researching spices, and wondering about the Kingdom of God. And I’ve been praying, and reading, and gardening and playing with my kids. And listening. I’ve been trying to open my ears, and just listen more.

But that’s enough about me. What has this season been for you? We’re about to enter a new realm, you know, with Easter and Pascha almost upon us. And certainly there will be change–there will be roasted chicken, that’s for sure–and maybe there will be chocolate shortbread, too.

Or rosemary rolls. Not sure yet.

Happy last days of Lent, everyone! Enjoy this season, whatever that might mean for you this time around…