Monthly Archives: November 2012

Finnish Pulla Bread

Are you a fan of challah or brioche?  A fan of Scandinavian foods?  A fan of anything involving bread?  If you said yes to at least one of these, you’ve just got to give pulla a try.  Tender texture, slightly sweet, spiced with cardamom, and flat-out gorgeous.  I amazed myself with how lovely this bread turned out.

This recipe comes from Baking With Julia, a book generated by the PBS series of the same name.  It’s not one of Julia’s recipes, but rather one from a guest chef, Beatrice, Ojakangas.  Pulla is really no more difficult than making any bread.  Gather what you need and prepare to amaze yourself!

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (abou 110F)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (about 7 pods if you choose to grind them yourself)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 4 1/2-5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Just before baking:

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 TBSP milk for glaze
  • Sliced or slivered almonds, if desired
  • large-granuled sugar

Place milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and scald it–heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan.  Watch the pot carefully–milk can go from scalded to boiled-over to burned very quickly!  Remove from heat and cool to 105-115F.

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water.  Whisk to combine and set aside for 5 minutes for yeast to dissolve completely and become creamy.

Whisk in milk, sugar, cardamom, salt and eggs.

Stir in 2 cups flour to make a smooth batter.

Stir in butter.

Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time until you have a stiff, but not dry dough.  You might not need the entire 5 cups.  I used a stand mixer, adding flour until the dough pulled away from the sides.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  I left mine in the bowl of the mixer and let the dough hook knead it for 8 minutes, adding wee bits of flour when the dough started climbing over the top of the hook, or when the dough was sticking to the bottom.  I hand-kneaded for the last two minutes until I had a satiny dough ball.

Place the dough ball in a greased bowl, turning once so the top is buttered.  Cover with the same piece of plastic wrap used while the dough rested, and let rise at room temperature until doubled.  45 minutes-1 hour.  This time of year, my house is too chilly for a good rise, so I ended up setting the bowl on top of my dryer while I did laundry.  Worked like a charm!

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Turn the dough onto a cool, lightly oiled, working surface.  (The recipe suggests rubbing an ice-filled metal pan over your surface to cool it if your kitchen is very hot.  My counter felt cool to the touch, so I went right to the next step.)  Knead just until the dough deflates and the air has been worked out.  Divide dough into two equal portions to create two braided loaves. (Pulla is traditionally formed into a wreath.  Do not divide in two if you want a wreath.)

Divide each half into three equal portions. (Same for the wreath, you’ll divide the original amount of dough into three.)

Using your hands, roll each portion into a rope, about 18 inches long,  (36 inches long for the wreath.)

Lay three pieces side-by-side and braid from the center down, pinching the ends.  (For the wreath, start at one end and braid all the way to the bottom.)

Turn the braid so the loose ends face you and braid the other half, pinching the ends.  (For the wreath, form the braid into a circle, pinching the ends together.  You can also cut about 1 inch of dough from each end of the braid prior to joining it into a circle.  Use the cut-off dough to fashion a bow to cover the place where the ends join.)

Place the loaves or wreath on the prepared pan, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, but not doubled.  About 45 minutes.  I set my pan on top of the stove.  The heating oven made it warm enough to rise nicely.

Whisk egg and milk together for the egg wash glaze.

Brush egg wash over every exposed surface of the bread, including sides and ends.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake on a rack in the middle of your oven, 20-25 minutes, until golden.  Do not over-bake.  Mine were perfect in 20 minutes.  The aroma created by these loaves is heavenly!

Aren’t they pretty?  No more difficult than any bread really, but so much more special.  Uber-yummy all on its own, or with butter, or jam or melty brie, or…….!  Perfect for the holidays or anytime you want a bakery-quality bread from your own kitchen!  Perfect to take to the holiday party you’re invited to, lovely as a gift with a jar of jam.

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Filed under comfort food, food gifts, Holiday foods, Potluck, side dish

Holiday Crab Dip

No need to limit this dip to the holidays, though.  This is an uber-easy, uber-quick, uber-yummy dip you can make anytime.  Anytime you want to be the party rock star, that is!  (It disappears quickly, you might want to make a double batch!)

How ’bout that cute little crabby baking dish?!  We saw it at an art store in North Carolina and I just had to have it.  It came with this recipe!  Bonus!

  • 3 oz lump crab meat
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened (low-fat or non-fat is ok)
  • 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 2 TBSP shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped onion
  • 1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp curry powder
  • 2 drops hot sauce (like Tabasco)
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 325F.

Gently mix all ingredients together, to preserve the lumps of crab as much as possible.

Place in a small casserole or baking dish and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Enjoy with bread, crackers, celery, carrots or a spoon!


That’s it! Be warned that this dip DOES seem to disappear.  I made the mistake of setting it out as guests started to arrive at a party while I finished up some other yummies.  By the time I turned around, it was nearly gone!  Maybe it had something to do with this cute little crabby dish.

What a face, eh?  I love it when I can cook or serve something in art.  Do you have a special serving dish that makes your food even yummier?

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Filed under appetizer, Holiday foods, Potluck, recipe, snack, Uncategorized

Sweet-Tooth Saturday: Celine’s Raw-Apple Cake

This is a cake I remember from many a potluck growing up.  Everyone’s mom had a recipe for this dense, not too sweet, “I think I’ll have another piece” cake.  While going through Mom’s recipe box, I came across her recipe in her own handwriting, on a recipe card that Dad printed at the printing company he worked for.  A true family heirlooom.

Exquisite warm, but just wonderful at room temperature.  I took this cake to a party, and was lucky to snag a piece for myself before it was snarfed up!

  • 8 medium apples (to end up with 8 cups), peeled, cored, diced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped nutmeats

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla (not part of Mom’s recipe, but I thought it needed a little something)

Preheat oven to 350F, butter and flour a 9×13 pan.

Peel, core and dice the apples.  I kept the chopped apples in a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice in it to keep them from browning.

Cream the butter and sugar together.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between.

Add the dry ingredients.  This will result in a VERY stiff batter.  Not to worry, the apples will fix it right up!

Add the apples, 4 cups at a time, and mix until all are combined and your batter has “relaxed.”  Stir in the nuts.  I left the nuts out this time, because a friend at the party I took the cake to is allergic.  No one missed them but me.  🙂

Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.


Bake 40 minutes or until firm and golden.

While cake is cooling, prepare the topping.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.

Add brown sugar and stir to combine.

Add cornstarch and stir it in as well.

Add water, stir and continue heating until thickened.  Add vanilla.

Pour topping over the cake in an even layer.

Cut a piece and transport yourself back to the Midwest in the 60s and 70s at the potluck of your choice.


Maybe it was at a park, and you got to play on the merry-go-round or teeter-totters with your cousins or the neighbor kids or feed the ducks.  Maybe it was at a church craft bazaar during the holidays.  Maybe it wasn’t a potluck at all, and your Mom made the cake JUST for your family for Sunday dinner’s dessert.  Do you have a nostalgic recipe from your childhood?

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Filed under comfort food, Food memories, Potluck, recipe

Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler

I live in Western Colorado, an area as famous for its peaches as Georgia.  Peaches usually start coming on in July and continue into September.  Big, beautiful, sweet and juicy.  The best way to enjoy them?  Fresh off the tree.  But cobbler?  Not a bad alternative.  Yum.

This cobbler can be made with fresh, canned or frozen peaches.  (I like fresh best!)  The recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.

  • 4 cups sliced peaches
  • 1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp mace (This spice is what makes the cobbler taste old fashioned.  Mmmmm.)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • I TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP butter

For the biscuit topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten

Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare the biscuit topping first.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Combine the milk and egg.  Add to dry mixture and stir until moistened.  Set aside.

Peel and slice peaches.  Combine cornstarch, mace, brown sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until thickened.

Add peaches, lemon juice and butter, cook until peaches are hot, about 5 minutes.

Pour peach mixture into a round 8″x 2″ pan.

Spoon on biscuit topping in six mounds.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.  (I didn’t have either when I made this, and you know what?  It was STILL yummy!)

Oh yummy.  The taste of summer, even if you’ve used canned peaches and it’s snowing outside.

Mom used to make cobblers on the camp stove in her dutch oven and called it “glop.”  The biscuits end up dumpling-like, rather than the crisp topping of an oven-baked cobbler.  Both ways are lovely comfort food desserts (or breakfasts!), both equally yummy.  Do you have a favorite camping yummy?

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Filed under breakfast, comfort food, dessert, Food memories, recipe

Meatless Monday Stuffed Winter Squash

Oh how I loves me a roasted winter squash!  I have yet to find one I don’t like.  Generally I roast them and serve them as a side dish, but a hearty stuffing brings squash to main course level. Mmmmmm……satisfying!  Perfect for a chilly fall evening, quick and easy-peasy enough to serve on a weekday.  Small squash are perfectly portioned, making them just the thing when cooking for one or two or the whole family.

My favs for stuffing are acorn and the buttercups I used in this recipe.  Use whichever you can find.

  • acorn or buttercup squash, 1 per person as a main course, 1/2 per person as  side dish
  • black beans, I used half a can for the two squash I stuffed
  • Spanish rice, I had some left over and used about 1/2 cup per squash
  • shredded cheese, I like cheddar or a Mexican mix
  • butter, salt
  • green chili sauce for a topping, optional

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut squash in half.  Buttercups have their seed cavity more toward the bottom of the squash, so need to be cut lengthwise, acorns can be cut either way.

Clean out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Cut a little slice from the back of each half so they will sit flat when stuffed.

Butter and salt all the cut edges and insides.

Turn face down on a baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat or buttered foil or parchment.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven.

Mix beans and rice together.

Turn squash over with tongs and stuff with the bean and rice mixture.  Top with shredded cheese.

Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes; until cheese is melty and browned.

Serve with green chili sauce if desired.  I personally love the whole “sweet and heat” combo of the squash and green chili–yum!   Carnivores won’t even miss the meat!

Stuffed with beans and rice, squash can be a nice alternative to turkey for your vegetarian Thanksgiving guests.  What else do you like to serve for Thanksgiving?

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Filed under comfort food, dinner, Garden produce, Holiday foods, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian

Pot Roast For Two

Michael and I are empty nesters now that Mr18 is in college, creating a whole new challenge in cooking.  Most of my recipes work for my family of three with enough leftover for one more meal or lunch.  These very same recipes now last three or four days!  They are yummy, but really.  A couple times is plenty.  I am not an organized “freeze in dinner-sized portions for later” person, although I may learn to be that way.  🙂

Fall has happened and I have begun to yearn for slow-cooked, aromatic fall foods….like pot roast.  Can you imagine how long those leftovers would be around?!  While snooping around the grocery store the other day, I came across a chuck roast package weighing only 1 1/2 pounds!  Perfect!  I could make a tiny pot roast for two! (Now of course, it occurs to me I can buy a regular-sized roast and cut it into smaller portions–duh!) I opened my Julia Child How to Cook for inspiration, (Smothered Brisket of Beef) gathered a very few things and was on my way to fall food yum-a-palooza!  This recipe should double or triple easily for larger families.

(Based on Julia’s recipe, adjusted for amounts and what I had on hand)

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme–fresh is better if you have it)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • a few grinds of black pepper, approximately 1/8 tsp
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4-6 small potatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 4-6 carrots, peeled and cut in half

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine salt, thyme and garlic in a small container.

Add oil and whisk together.

Rub the garlic mixture over all surfaces of the roast, place it into a large casserole or slow cooker.  Place potatoes and carrots on top.

On top of that, add the can of tomatoes, including liquid, and the onion.

Cover with the casserole’s lid or foil and place in the oven for 3-4 hours, or slow cooker on high for the same time, or slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours.

Within an hour, your house will start to fill with that wonderful November Sunday dinner at Mom’s or Grandma’s aroma.  At the end of the cooking time, remove from the oven.  Mmmmm! doesn’t that look yummy?!

Remove veggies and roast to a platter or large plate and tent with foil to keep them warm.

Strain and de-fat the drippings.  You can use a special little pitcher that pours from the bottom, specifically designed for this, or if you have time, place the drippings in the fridge to solidify the fat, or be like me and use a spoon to skim off as much fat as you can.  I’ve also heard you can wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and skim it over the surface to get more fat off, but I wasn’t all that concerned.  Transfer the drippings to a small sauce pan over medium heat.

Take out 1 TBSP of the drippings and place in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 tsp corn starch.  Blend well and add back to the pan.  Heat until boiling while stirring, reduce heat to a simmer.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve up your pot roast in perfect portions and drizzle with the sauce.  Add a slice or two of crusty bread to mop up any leftover sauce.  Alas, in my excitement to consume this yummy meal, I totally forgot to get the bread out!

There. Moist, tender, flavor-y.  Fall comfort food on a plate, just like Mom used to make.  We each had a satisfying portion of roast and veggies and had one more portion left over.  I love cold potatoes and I’ve already snitched a couple from the fridge and plan to use the roast in quesadillas tonight.  As Julia said of this recipe. “It makes prime eating.”

I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Julia lately (I’m on a first-name basis with her, as you can see), having just finished Dearie, a biography.  I’ve also read Julie and Julia, and My Life In France.  I’m all inspired to try more Julia-esque recipes this fall and winter.  Do you have a favorite Julia recipe?

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Filed under Books, comfort food, crock pot, dinner, recipe