Monday, October 17, 2011


In the forest where I live, as I write this, the rain is passing through. We have a Japanese house with tall, cathedral wood beam ceilings and a red metal roof. The acoustics are sweet for rain and excellent for music. Being here is every bit as cozy as is fresh, hot bread out of my own oven with the house heated up with heavenly aroma, as only an oven can do.
A late childhood friend of mine (a Buddhist monk who liked to drink too much) once told me that the best thing you can do when you have guests for dinner is to chop up some garlic and roast it in oil in a pan on the stove top so that the aroma will permeate the air, and it will be the first thing your guests will notice when they come inside. And it gives the impression that the cook knows what she/he is doing with the food. Yup, he actually said that.
The Monk and his family were my next-door neighbors from the time I was born until I was 9 years old. He went on to an interesting life of fighting for causes (and winning). He nearly lost his life when a hired hit man with a mac truck ran him down and left him for dead. He was the accountant who discovered the Cliff Robertson forgeries when he worked at Columbia, in the later 1970's. After the truck incident, he went into hiding until all was said and done in court. A few years later, he went to Tibet and lived in a monastery. He became a devout monk.
He passed away in 2008, which I learned from one of his sisters, who passed away two months later. And 2 months after that, my mother passed away. And then there were 7 more. Marching ants who marched no more.
One tends to get a bit shook when they lose their support system. One fellow blogger suddenly lost her husband, recently, and it was damned unfair. Young and in love with their whole life ahead of them. Gone in a nano second. One thing I was able to do for her while unable to do it for my own grief was to cry. Some people need to be cried for. Whether they are aware of it or not, our compassion goes out to them as comfort upon atmospheric ripple. We send, they receive. Just like radio waves.
Tell me, readers, do you ever use garlic in such a manner? They should make garlic incense!

My dad loved to cook. He once concocted The Perfect Chili. Something drove him to experiment, and he finally ruined the chili with peanuts. They tasted like soap chips. I hate peanuts in my food, and I wouldn't have put it beneath my dad to use soap chips and fib that they were peanuts....Ya had to be there. He had a very strange sense of humor. Dad had every spice there is in his kitchen but he hated salt and wouldn't buy it. His salt shaker from the days when I lived there was empty, save for a funky little lump of it, 20 years old, at the bottom. And every time I visited for Thanksgiving, he would set that som'bitch in front of me at the table. Don't you think it is rude to refuse to have salt in the house when he knows that I use it, and I drive four hours, one way, to see him and share Thanksgiving? One year, he added a dead date beetle to that salt shaker with its lump of old salt. Date beetles look like cockroaches with heads. I pretended not to notice. Instead, the joke was on him because I had a packet of salt in my pocket and I emptied the salt into his cup of coffee. Yup, he had that possum thing going on.Funniest face he ever made. The following Thanksgiving, that salt shaker was gleaming clean and filled with fresh salt.
When food has to be politically correct, I will draw the line and dare you to cross it. If I wish to salt my food, that's MY business and it isn't your place to harass me for it when I'm eating. If I want a cigarette and go outside to smoke it, don't complain about it. Because if you then come to my house and complain about the smell of smoke or feign an imaginary allergy, I will put you outside in the snow and the biting cold just to show you, firsthand, what a smoker goes through just to respect your space. But would you get it? Hell no, because naggers are weak in character. If you are not a meat eater and you have been invited for dinner and the hostess doesn't know that you are so special, a Buddhist monk will tell you to shut up about it and eat the meal which has been so graciously prepared for everyone. It won't kill you to eat the meat and show some manners. Just shut the fuck up.
I used to think that bread was a food that everyone could agree on. But, noOOOooo, here come the gluten-free girls. There are plenty of foodie blogs that feature only gluten-free recipes. Mine is not one of them. However, I would highly recommend Helene at Tartelette and Maria at Scandi Foodie.

This particular bread is Mr. P's favorite. Where we live, one could only find it in the bakery at the supermarket. Our only supermarket. And it isn't cheap. So, it was one of those treats that he would only buy if the price came down a couple of dollars. And then, for unknown reason to us, they stopped carrying it for a couple of years. So, one day I decided to surprise him and, boy, was he ever. It was love at first bite when he proclaimed, "This is IT!..This is IT!" And so this went into my recipe book of IT's.
This type of artisan bread isn't really for bread loaf pans, but it does work, made beautiful with the slashes on top. If you aren't careful not to put too many pieces of jalapeno and cubes of cheese in it, the bread could turn out raw in the middle. It's a crapshoot for me because my convection oven bakes too hot, so I try to remember to put the heat 5 degrees cooler after preheating at 450F.
Because I'm a klutz with sticky stuff, I tend to use a parchment sheet sprinkled with cornmeal place underneath the loaf and on top of the pizza stone. When finished, I transfer it from the oven and onto a wire cooling rack with a big peel,(a big, fat, round spatula).You'll get much better results by preheating the pizza stone and placing the dough ball directly on it with the peel, dusted with cornmeal. It is disheartening to get the perfect, dark-golden top crust only to find the bottom not cooked as well and in need of 10 more minutes of baking, which would only burn the top crust. So, try not to be a pussy like me, omit the parchment, and put that puppy directly onto the stone baker.... if you can do this without the dough sticking to the peel and driving you into a Peter Sellers' moment in your kitchen. Remember his movie "The Party", the scene in the bathroom with the wet painting? Sometimes, that's what it's like when you hang out with me in the kitchen, or at the supermarket, reaching to the rear of the top shelf for the last jar on sale.
These photos are from three different batches, beginning with the round I'd forgotten to slash on top. It was still delicious and perfectly baked, but not as arty as it could be.

Pink Elephants coffee Cafe
Adapted from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day" by Jeff Hertzberg,M.D. & Zoe Francois
note: I highly recommend this book. A pleasure for the experienced and a "must have" for novices.

Boule (Artisan Free Form Loaf):
3 cups lukewarm water, 100F temperature
1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. granulated yeast
1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. course sea salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose flour (scoop and sweep, do not pack it)
Cornmeal for pizza peel or parchement paper cut to size on pizza stone.

2 cups medium cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 small can jalapeno peppers, sliced (and then cut into 1/2" pieces)
Discard any carrots and completely drain jalapenos of juice, dry peppers on paper towel.

note: As soon as you are finished chopping jalapenos and cubing cheese, if you use a wood cutting board, you must clean it a little deeper than the surface to prevent bacterial growth that could make you deathly ill. Wet the board and sprinkle with salt until coated. Let stand until dry, about an hour, and then rinse off under faucet thoroughly and let stand to dry. I do this about twice a month, and after any time I use it for meat.

1. Warm the water to 100F if using filtered water. If from the faucet, adjust the temperature of the flow until your digital thermometer reads 100F. The warm water will help to rise the dough to the right point for storage in 2 hours. You can use cooler water for the same result, but then the rise will take about 3 or 4 hours.
2. In large bowl, measure out the 6 1/2 cups flour. Set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer
add the yeast and salt to the water and mix with a fork. The book says not to worry about mixing it perfectly, but I do it anyway.
3. Add all the flour at once. Turn mixer speed on low for a minute, and only to a little faster speed to mix the ingredients until just combined, about 1 or 2 minutes. In a large, clean bowl,plop in the ball of dough. Again, DO NOT KNEAD.
note: The recipe book says to mix with a wooden spoon and a high-capacity food processor. I don't have a processor and my shoulder is permanently messed up and I can't hand mix the mass of dough. So, phooey, an electric mixer is fine. Just don't over mix, and be careful when clearing the dough from the hook and the bowl so that you don't squeeze/knead it or even pieces of it.
Cover the bowl with foil and let stand to rise for 4 hours.
4. You can put it in the refrigerator for this process, or leave it on the counter. The book advises less experienced bread bakers to let it rise in the fridge as it will be less sticky and easier to handle. A longer rising time, say 5 or even 6 hours, won't hurt the outcome. Don't use a damp tea towel to cover because, if you forget the time, the dough goo will ruin the towel because you won't be able to get it out. And whatever you use for covering the bowl or container, make sure it isn't airtight or else it might explode. You could say that rising dough tends to fart a lot.
5. If you are going to use parchment, measure it to cut with a 1" overhang on the baking stone.
Sprinkle with cornmeal, rubbing it into a circle. If not using the parchment, sprinkle the cornmeal onto the baking stone and evenly onto your work surface.
6. When dough is risen and ready, pull away a piece big enough for your loaf, cloak it with flour, and roll it out gently on your workspace to an oval rectangle. Toss your cheese and jalapeno slices over the entire shape and then quickly roll up and form into a loaf and place tuck side down. It will even out in the baking.

7. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes. To get the oven good and hot, preheat the oven to 450F at this time. It will take 20-35 min. to preheat. The dough will rise a little while resting, and rise some more in the oven. Place baking stone in oven to preheat, sprinkled with cornmeal.
8. When it is time to put the dough in the oven, generously sprinkle flour where the slashes are to go. With a large, very sharp, serrated knife and, AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE, quickly and deftly slash only once per line 1" into the dough. Bread bakers use what is called a lame (laMAY) for this purpose. You can slice a tic tac toe square of crossing lines, or a cross, or across from side to side about 2" or more apart.
9. Dip your fingertips into a small bowl of water and lightly flick it at the loaf, then place in oven on the pre-heated baking stone, using a peel or parchment.
The recipe calls for using a sliding oven pan with water in it, underneath the rack the bread will bake on. I have a convection oven that utilizes such a pan, and if I don't put water in it, any food will dry out and/or burn.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes. If your oven cooks way hot, reduce the temperature to 425F and bake for only 25 min. To remove from oven, use peel and transfer the bread to a wire cooling rack. If you used parchment over the stone, remove with stone, or use peel.

Remaining dough in fridge will keep for a week, just do not use an airtight lid. One batch will yield 3 small rounds, 2 large artisan ovals, 2 loaves baked in bread pan, or 2 big rounds.


  1. Crikey heck! First you start this post off with a morbid tale, then resort to insult and verbal abuse before finally giving us this delicious recipe.

  2. Thank you for noticing! You won't soon forget me, will you? My take on some things can seem harsh to the guilty parties, but when you stop to think about it you see the humor instead of animosity.
    I love your comment. It's honest as well as complimentary.
    The people who know me read these posts and laugh their butts off for having had similar experiences, and because they know that I usually go for the joke. If I did offend you, permit me to apologize, for my intent is to entertain you in hopes of strumming a familiar chord that you just might relate to and have a hearty laugh at. :-D