cinnamon roll

Moving along in the book, time for some cinnamon rolls!

I confess to having a small mathematical problem while making these. I opted to halve the recipe, but contrary to what I keep telling our students in the lab “always write down your protocol”, I decided  to mentally make the adjustments while adding the ingredients to the bowl. Everything went quite well, until the final, most important addition: water.

I got distracted by the need to warm the filtered water in the microwave, and  completely forgot to cut the amount in half. As the dough turned into pancake batter in front of my very eyes, I felt the all too familiar shiver up my spine; familiar as in “I’ve done this before”. Unfortunately, it was not too long ago, but apparently I did not learn the lesson.

Such is life. I started all over, mumbling to myself  “these better be some outstanding rolls”

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… you open a bottle of Chardonnay!  Yes, of course! But if the chard is as gorgeous as this batch I got last week:

Golden chard

you also need to find the perfect recipe to show it off.  I could have taken the simple route and made a saute to serve over pasta or as a side dish for some juicy grilled steak. But, I am aware that hubby is not as wild about chard as I am, so other possibilities came to mind: a quiche? an open tart? a gratin? I searched for a recipe in some of my cookbooks, but as it happens so often, the internet came to the rescue. I found this recipe and knew it would be a winner. I made a few changes, taking it slightly away from Greece and closer to Italy, to accommodate the ingredients I had around.

(adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe)

2 pounds Golden chard, stemmed
2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh herbs of your liking (I used basil and lemon thyme)
3 large eggs, beaten
4 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
black pepper and salt to taste
dash of ground nutmeg
12 sheets of phyllo
olive oil spray

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the stemmed chard and blanch for 1 minute. Transfer the leaves quickly to a bowl with ice water. Drain and squeeze well. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and saute the diced onion until it just starts to get some color. Add the chard, herbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Saute for a couple of minutes, remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese, mix to incorporate, add the saute chard mixture.

Spray a 10-inch baking dish with olive oil, layer 7 sheets of phyllo over the dish, allowing part of the sheets to hang outside (see photos). Spray each sheet with a little olive oil as you place it in the pan.

Add the filling, fold the hanging bits of phyllo over it, then cover the pie with 5 more sheets of phyllo, always remembering to spray some olive oil in between the layers. Tuck the edges into the sides of the pie.

Spray olive oil on the surface, cut 3 or 4 small slits to allow steam to escape.

Bake the pie at 375 F for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


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BBA#7 – CIABATTA: judging a bread by its holes


With this post, I finally join as a blogger the crowd of bakers  who are taking  “The Challenge“. You can see the other breads, made before this blog was launched, by clicking here.

Ciabatta is one of my favorite kinds of bread.  A friend of mine (you know who you are…) says she does not understand this fascination with holes in the bread, as obviously where there is a hole, there is NO bread. What can I say? I love the texture, the look, the “feel” of a bread invaded by holes…

I have made ciabatta in the past, but never this particular recipe. Peter Reinhart gives us a choice, ciabatta made with “poolish” or “biga”.  No need to panic, those are simple terms used by bakers, that define a pre-mixture of yeast with water and flour.  In very general terms, a “poolish” contains more water, ends up looking like porridge. “Biga” is thicker, resembles play dough.  Either of  these are incorporated in the final dough, sometimes more yeast might be added to it. For this bread, I decided to use a “poolish”.

The “poolish” is added to flour and more yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.


After mixing, the dough is spread in a rectangular shape and folded twice during a few hours of rising. You can see how a dough is folded by clicking here.


After the first fold, things start to get really smooth, but the second fold is what really changes the look of the dough. Notice the nice “bubbly” nature…


More rising, the dough is cut in pieces, and allowed to rise some more in improvised “couches”


Ready to go into the oven!


click here to see the outcome



Two of our three zucchini plants got so sick I had to cut them, but the other one seemed to shape up, maybe afraid of following the neighbors’ fate. Yesterday, as I stared at the pantry considering my options for a quick dinner, it occurred to me to go check our veggie garden. I knew the cherry tomatoes had to be ripe by now, but the two cute zucchinis were a nice added bonus. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a great harvest! 😉

Veggies fresh from the garden (as well as from farmer’s markets) are so much better than those tired beings at the grocery store, that I like to keep their preparation very simple.  One of my favorite quick dishes for zucchini comes from a great blog, Smitten Kitchen. I make it quite often, actually, changing it slightly according to my mood.

Here is yesterday’s version, served as a side dish for barbecued brisket that will definitely show up on Bewitching Kitchen sometime

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe from Red Cat, New York)

2 small zucchini (preferably from your own garden!)
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
squirt of lemon juice
lemon zest to taste
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts

Julienne the zucchini, not too thin (zucchini tends to turn into mush fairly easily). Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan until you can detect a little smoke forming. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper.  Saute until it starts to get light brown in some spots.  Lower the heat, add a squirt of fresh lemon juice, some lemon zest, and incorporate the roasted peanuts. Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary.

wait, there is more to read!


This is one of those recipes that I always go back to. Simple, straightforward, and as far as bread things go, it certainly qualifies as quick, as you can have it on a cooling rack 1 hour after your focaccia craving hits.

It comes from  “No Need to Knead”, a book published in 1999, years before the “no-knead-bread fever” hit the US.

For dinner parties I make the full recipe, for me and hubby I make half and cook it in a cast iron pan. Works like a charm….


(adapted from Suzanne Dunaway’s “No Need to Knead”)

2 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tsp salt
2-3  tsp olive oil
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt

Measure the water in a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water and stir until dissolved. Using a strong wooden spoon mix 2 cups of flour and salt until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour, stirring for 2 more minutes, just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and the flour is fully incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 30 to 40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 500F. Oil one or two non-stick 13×18 inch baking sheets.

Pour the dough onto the sheet(s),  brush the surface with 2 tsp olive oil. Dip your fingers in cold water or olive oil and make indentations all over the dough, working to stretch the dough as you go. If you are using a single sheet, the dough should cover it. Brush the surface with another teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and  salt.

Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

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