The Business of Baking

I trade food for goods and services that otherwise would not be available to me. This kind of resourcefulness is widely practiced in my family. My father is from Sicily where bartering and haggling are taught in kindergarten. My mother told me never to go anywhere empty-handed. This rule applies whether you’re visiting a friends house or picking up your car from the mechanic. Not only are people impressed and appreciative when you bring them food but they are more willing to go out of their way for you. In this case food is neither entirely selfish or generous, but a tool of exchange.

Recently my bartering led to a business opporunity. Word got out that I make killer biscotti and an inquiry was made as to whether or not they were for sale. Yes, they are now; and no, you can’t have the recipe.

In order of appearance: anise, cinnamon-sugar, and chocolate-orange.

Note: biscotti means “twice baked.” You bake the cookies in a log, slice, and bake a second time.

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Love you

I love Valentine’s Day because I love flowers, candy, and the colors pink and red. I don’t care that it’s a Hallmark-holiday. It’s fun with or without a partner. Obviously we should all show our love and appreciation daily, but sometimes we forget. If you are in a relationship: don’t fuck Valentine’s Day up. Make a card and get some flowers and be a hero; it’s that simple. If you’re not romantically involved then don’t let Hallmark get  you down! Love yourself. I buy myself flowers weekly. I realized how satisfying it is to treat myself instead of waiting for someone else to. I like to celebrate Galentine’s Day with my lady friends who I love more than anything. If your friends are all going on dates then eat take-out naked. This fake holiday can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways.

I sandwiched butter cookies with ganache and pomegranate jelly. I’m currently having a relationship with ganache. I can’t give you the recipe because it’s going to make me rich one day.

 

It’s also my day off from work so I made quiche with chard, turkey bacon, manchego, and parmesan. The last time I tried to make quiche it was a disaster so I am happy.

 

Quiche (adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

1 pie crust

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cream

7 oz cheese, grated

1 oz sour cream (heaping tbsp)

4 slices turkey bacon, cut into pieces

1 cup swiss chard, cut into pieces

nutmeg

salt & pepper

Preparation: For the crust I adapted a King Arthur recipe by using butter only. Roll out the crust, place in pie dish. Place a layer of foil on the crust and weigh it down with rice or beans then bake for 10-15 minutes in 375 degree oven. In skillet cook the turkey bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon from the pan and cook the chard in remaining grease, add salt & pepper. In a large bowl mix eggs, cheese, sour cream, cream, nutmeg, chard, turkey bacon, salt & pepper. Pour into pre-baked crust and bake for 45 minutes (until knife comes out clean). Serve at room temperature.

Buttermilk biscuits

I  am in the process of emptying my fridge before I go home to NY for Thanksgiving. I had some buttermilk and decided to make biscuits for breakfast. Biscuits are a food that I’ve battled before with success and failure. Biscuit dough can be fussy and the general rule of thumb is work quickly so that the butter stays cold and the dough is not overworked (which makes for flaky dough).

This morning I made “Mother’s Biscuits” from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads (1973). Having previous experience making biscuits I was suprised by Mother’s technique: “While it is considered heresy to handle biscuit dough needlessly, Mrs. Rawlings’s mother believed that to make a flaky layered biscuit one should roll out the dough, fold it over itself in 4 layers, roll out again to the thickness of a 1/2″, and cut with a 2″ cookie cutter.” Though I was skeptical I trusted in Mother’s wisdom with satisfying results; however, I used buttermilk in place of sweet milk.

 

Vanessa’s Biscuits:

(adapted from Mother’s Biscuits)

2 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

1 cup buttermilk

Preparation: sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Add cold butter to dry ingredients using pastry cutter (or fork). Mixture should resemble coarse meal. Add buttermilk until combined. Roll dough out on clean, lightly floured surface. Follow Mother’s instruction and roll dough out four times into itself. Cut using whatever size glass you like- I used a wine glass. Gently re-shape scraps and cut again. Place on lightly greased and floured sheet pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Eat for breakfast with with jam and eggs or make into shortcakes with fruit and whipped cream.

Gingerbread and Candied Bacon

If you want people to love you this holiday season make them these things.

This spicy gingerbread has a bright flavor from the addition of lemon zest. If you have a microplane zester use it. If you have a spice grinder use it; this recipe truly benefits from the potency of freshly ground spices. I don’t have either of those tools and my gingerbread was delicious.

Candied bacon is salty, sweet, and sinful. It is also incredibly easy and popular. Eat it plain, put it in batters (waffles!!!), or sprinkle it over ice cream (coffee is excellent), soups (potato) or salads (iceburg wedge).

 

Gingerbread:

2 eggs

3/4 cup dark molasses

4-5 tsp ground ginger

pinch allspice, cinnamon, & black pepper

grated zest of one lemon

2 cups flour

6 tbsp melted butter

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp baking soda

Preparation: beat eggs until light and frothy. Add molasses and beat. Stir together brown sugar, spices, and lemon zest. Add to eggs. Lower speed and add 1/3 flour, then butter, then 1/3 flour. Stir together buttermilk, milk and baking soda. Add to batter. Add remaining flour and mix until blended. Pour batter into greased and floured 8″ square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (until gingerbread pulls from sides and toothpick comes out clean). Enjoy plain, with cream cheese frosting, or fruit preserves.

 

Candied bacon:

bacon

brown sugar

spices (I used cinnamon and chile powder)

Preparation:

Mix spices and brown sugar in a dish. Coat raw bacon thoroughly with the mixture. Line sheet pan with tin foil. Place lightly greased cooling rack on sheet pan. Set bacon on top of cooling rack. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Check on your bacon frequently because it comes in different thicknesses and can burn quickly.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished bacon or save a piece for my roommates- oops!

Chili with Cornbread

I grew up eating chili over yellow rice. When I started cooking for myself I realized that I don’t care for rice. I now eat my chili with corn bread. The recipe below is adapted from Mark Bittman’s corn bread recipe which is delicious. I cut back on the cornmeal because I ran out and substitutes molasses for white sugar because I felt like it. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet then a baking pan or muffin tin will work fine (just melt the grease or use oil). Feel free to add herbs, spices, chili peppers, bacon, etc.

As for the chili… it’s not a big deal. All you need is beans, tomatoes, and something spicy. Feel carnivorous? Add ground turkey.

 

Corn bread:

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tbsp bacon fat

1 1/4 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

about 1 tbsp dark molasses

1 egg

Preparation: Heat fat in cast-iron skillet for a minute. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Add wet to dry. Add batter to pre-heated fat in skillet. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

 

Chipotle black been chili:

two (each) canned chipotles in adobo

half red onion

2 tbsp oil

can black beans

can diced tomatoes

1 clove garlic

pure chili powder

cumin

red pepper flakes

one whole dried mystery chili dad brought from Guatemala

salt & peppa

Preparation: Heat oil in pot. Add onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and spices, cook another minute. Add remaining ingredients. Serve over corn bread with diced raw onion, shredded cheese, more hot sauce, cold beer, whatever.