Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Live in the Kitchen

If someone from a alien planet, where to read the title of this entry they would naturally assume that in a house with bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, garage, office, and laundry room, all of which are designed to be use in context with the entire house, I instead, choose to spend my life in the kitchen.

When I say that "I live in the kitchen" I am not distressed by the statement but rather encouraged and happy to say so. My kitchen is a place that affords me the graces of creativity and refreshment.

Our kitchen is not large or grand in comparison to those showroom kitchens from magazines or homes but it is well organized, efficient, well lit with natural sunlight, functional and affords me great views across the back yard and the front yard.

Speaking of those above mentioned views. When the children were very small we bought this house while it was being built. The placement of the windows had not yet been decided. I stood in the area of the kitchen and thought carefully about where the sink and the cabinets would be placed. I imagined that I was washing up the dishes and watching the children play outside while I did so. Naturally a sink positioned so that a window could be placed above it and that window would overlook the backyard was my priority. Our kitchen table sits at the opposite end of the kitchen in front of a larger window that overlooks the front yard.

The entire kitchen is bathed in natural light. The shifting patterns of light are comforting and allow for orientation to the season, time of day, and weather patterns. But by far the most comforting feature is the window that overlooks the backyard. Though it is not filled with big wheels, swing sets, yard toys, and a sandbox anymore it still holds the memory of those days. The huge tree house remains to delight grandchildren when they visit and I am blessed that they visit often.

Kitchens are important rooms in homes. They are important not because of their decoration or fashion statement, but are instead important because of the very holy work that is accomplished within their walls, caring for our families through the creativity of cooking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh my goodness!! This cookie is a wonder of dark chocolate folded into a creamy, crunchy peanut butter with chocolate chips added to increase the richness and taste. Yummy to the max. Of course if you are not a peanut butter chocolate fan then this cookie will not suit when your Sweet tooth beckons.
Here's the caveat. It's Lent. I gave up sweets for Lent. Why am I making this, one of my all time favorite cookies ? My high school culinary class is studying the art of cookie baking and this cookie is a bit tricky to bake so it makes a perfect lesson for the students. As I mixed and folded the cookie dough I worked very hard with every ounce of willpower to resist nibbling on the beaters or licking the bowl.
The dough is chilling in the refrigerator. I plan to take the dough to my culinary class in the morning and teach my students how to bake this luscious cookie. If I thought it took willpower to resist tasting the cookie dough, it is going to take duct tape to keep me from eating a fresh warm cookie.
Lent is a blessing. Yes it is. I learn just how little willpower I have when it comes to sweets.
Perhaps tomorrow I will chew gum while the students are eating their cookies.
Have a fresh baked day.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Morning Yoga Club

The Friday Morning Yoga Club met this morning at the Doorstep Bakery. This is a great group of moms that enjoy yoga exercise and visiting with one another. To be honest the visiting with one another is probably the better part of the Friday Morning Yoga Club.
The stretching and limbering up of tired muscles through simple, relaxing yoga postures is beneficial and certainly helps to improve our ability to meet the day and all the challenges that will be presented. It is always nice to see how we have improved over the course of a week. A posture that seemed impossible last week, is more doable the following week. Practice makes for better yoga.
However sharing the time doing something we enjoy is all the nicer because we are able to learn so much from one another, encourage one another, and relax for a time before returning to the demands of family and life. Each mom is unique and brings that lovely uniqueness to the mat and our time together.
After we exercise we like to have tea and perhaps something from the bakery. This morning we enjoyed currant scones and Earl Grey Tea.
I look forward to the weekly gathering of the Friday Morning Yoga Club. Apparently others enjoy it as well because we are planning on moving to a larger facility that will afford us more room and the opportunity to provide free babysitting for those of us with small children.
Though yoga is certainly a fantastic way to exercise so that one can stay active and in the game of life, having good friends to share life with is probably the most important element to ensure that one  stays in the game.
Exercise and good friends just naturally goes together so does a cuppa tea and something warm from the bakery oven. Have a great week end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It all starts with warm water...

I love making yeast breads.  I find that the simplest ingredients make a warm pan filled with cinnamon rolls that bring happiness to any afternoon.  I love that the recipe starts with "1 cup of warm water" how simple.

Always neat to watch the yeast come alive when I add that warm water and a little honey.

Butter always looks so good before you eat it.


I love lemons.  I love the smell, the taste, and the look of a lemon.  I have always wanted to go and eat at this restaurant in Santorini, the seating is in a very old lemon grove.  

The mixer is always helpful to kneed the dough.  I am not good at kneading dough.


Oh, even better!

Everyone enjoyed this simple snack and will enjoy the sweet breakfast.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scones and Tea

 In the late afternoon, after a long and busy day it feels right to sit for a moment with a hot cup of tea and freshly baked scones. If your family does not have a scone recipe that you claim as your own perhaps you would like to try our favorite recipe for Irish Scones.

Irish Scones
2 cups of self rising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of currants
1 cup of whole milk (sometimes we use cream)
1 egg

Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture  resembles the texture of cornmeal (we use a fork and keep our efforts simple). Next sprinkle the currants over the mixture and stir them in. Beat together the egg and milk or cream. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, reserving a small amount to brush over the top of the scones before they are baked. Mix and form into a soft ball. Knead gently on a floured counter top. Form the mixture into a disc approximately 1 inch thick. We use a large biscuit cutter made especially for making scones to cut out 6-7 scones. After the tops are brushed with the reserved liquid, they are baked for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 400degree oven.

What a treat a scone makes when we are sitting together, enjoying each other's company over a teapot of fresh brewed black tea. I like mine with butter and jam. This is just the treat to refresh us so that we are able to finish up the day's chores.

Have a fresh baked day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Comfort Food

I began my bread baking journey many years ago in 1974 while living on the tiny island of Adak, Alaska. We were in the Navy and Ronald was stationed there as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. As a young mother, away from home for the first time (and this was way away from home) facing dreary, cold, snowy weather each and every day, I developed a sure case of cabin fever.
 At that time in my journey I had not figured out how to get out in the weather and make the best of  it. Afterall we had come to Adak, Alaska from Pensacola, Florida and it took some adjustment to reconcile the weather and its limitations. Margaret, our oldest was just a small baby of 6 months when we arrived on Adak and with Ronald gone most of the time the days were long and sometimes lonely. I needed a hobby and bread making became that hobby.
Margaret and I puttered in the kitchen most of the day. She would sit in her highchair and watch with interest while I mixed, kneaded and baked. The first attempts were disaster. However Margaret and I discovered that no matter how awful the bread looked or even tasted it always smelled wonderful while baking. The aroma was comforting even if the results were disappointing.
After one particularly ugly loaf was pulled from the oven one afternoon, I prayed out loud. "Dear Lord if You will just allow me to learn this bread baking, I promise I will give away a portion of what I bake each time I bake." The Lord was merciful and I improved.  The next day I tried again to bake the perfect loaf of white bread. Success!!!

I went outside and with Margaret balanced on my hip and a loaf of fresh, warm bread on a plate in my hand I went to my neighbor's house. The snow was falling like a blizzard but I was so excited by my accomplishment I didn't even mind. I gave the beautiful loaf of bread  to my Adak neighbor, Ginny Shira. The expression on her face when she opened the door to see me, Margaret and the bread standing there with snow whirling around us was wonderful.

To this day I give away a portion of what I bake each time I bake. If the UPS delivery man happens to my door when bread comes from the oven, he leaves with a loaf of bread. The giving is just that random.
It is the part of baking that brings me the most joy. Seeing someone's face when they are given a freshly baked loaf of bread is a joy for me. Everyone loves fresh bread. Even my dear friends with gluten issues or celiac disease love all that bread means and brings to our lives.

Yesterday Megan, baked a gorgeous and delicious Cinnamon Raisin Loaf. She had saved a portion for Laura and I to enjoy. I was so thrilled when she arrived at the bakery with her litte girls, Lucy and Olive. Lucy and Olive were munching on slices of fresh cinnamon bread. Lucy announced that they had brought some bread to us. The tradition continues....God is good.
Have a fresh baked day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Orange Marmalade

Yesterday a customer stopped by the bakery to purchase whole wheat sourdough bread and cookies. She was traveling to Alabama to visit family and wanted to take gifts to them. She came by at the end of the day and purchased all that was left on our shelves. (Remember we are small bakery and our inventory is limited. We bake in the morning and sell what we bake throughout the day. Always call ahead to make sure we have bread available.) She told me that she needed just two more gifts as she was preparing to leave. "Well",she said as she  thought out loud, " Perhaps I can go to WalMart and purchase something quick." I couldn't bear it any longer. Though I didn't want to give up the last of our winter supply of orange marmalade, I told her I might have just the gift, Doorstep Bakery Orange Marmalade.
The girls and I made delicious jams all summer with produce purchased locally. Many times we would go to Farmer's Market on Saturday and turn our berried jewels into lucious jams by Sunday. We sold out of every jar we made. Our recipes are unique and we enjoy working with them.
When November came around and the fresh berries were long gone we turned our attentions to marmalades, cranberry conserves and dried fruit conserves. Our conserves disappeared in December as customers were gift giving and these made wonderful Christmas gifts.

The marmalades were nearly sold out as well but I had saved back two jars of our special Orange/Myer Lemon Marmalade for the family. I was waiting for a dreary day to bring out the stashed away jars.
The day we canned the marmalade the girls and I test tasted and test tasted the batch. Delicious!! I remember telling the girls "This tastes like sunshine."
A fresh boule of French Sourdough was sliced, the slices were brushed with olive oil and toasted in our black cast iron skillet. Each of us settled in at the kitchen table with warm toasted bread, green tea, and spoonfuls of marmalade for our toast. What a wonderful tea time we had that day.

Though our customer bought the last of the winter marmalade we will have more. I plan to make Blood Orange Marmalade. My husband always checks the markets in Huntsville for intesting produce. He called to tell me the price of a seasonal beauty, Blood Oranges. A Blood Orange is dark purple/red inside and the taste is quite unique. It is slightly bitter but sweet enough to be pleasant. I have never made Blood Orange Marmalade but I plan to give it a go. I will definitely save a couple of jars for the family.
Have a fresh baked day.