I suppose most of my readers know that I am crazy for sourdough bread. But there’s something to be said for a simple, straightforward loaf that is a breeze to make and will be so much better than anything store-bought. Granted, it won’t stay good for as long because you won’t be adding preservatives to it, but isn’t that a bonus?  This recipe from Dan Lepard is simplicity in itself. Think of the usual suspects, flour, water, salt, and yeast, with a smidgen of butter that will contribute with flavor and improve texture. Anyone can make this bread, beginners, experienced bakers, children, yeast-o-phobes. All you need is a loaf pan, although you could conceivably shape it free form and bake it on a stone or baking sheet.

Simple White Loaf



The recipe calls for a sponge, which is simply a very liquid mixture of water, flour, and commercial yeast,  allowed to ferment for a couple of hours or overnight. The longer you allow the sponge to ferment, the better. I’ve made this bread after overnight “spongification” or after 2 hours, both worked quite well.

Once your sponge is ready, you will add the rest of the flour to the dough, a little softened butter,  and do the minimal kneading technique 10 minutes after mixing the dough, again at 25 minutes, and one final time at 40 minutes (timing is quite flexible).  A final 30 minute-proofing and you’ll be ready to shape the loaf.

The shaped loaf sits for 90 minutes, gets slashed and baked for about 45 minutes.

The full recipe can be found in Short and Sweet. You might be able to find it also through a google search.

For my review of his book, click here.


This simple recipe can be adapted in many ways. Dan himself used whey liquid from fresh mozzarella as part of the water in the recipe and loved the slight “tang” in the bread. One person who discussed this recipe in a Facebook page mentioned that a little soy sauce together with the water does wonders. Quite intriguing, I should try that at some point, probably reducing a little the amount of salt as soy contributes with some.


Slightly toasted, it is perfect to go with pretty much anything you’d like… from sliced ham to jams, or a smear of butter with Maldon sea salt flakes… heaven! I made this recipe three times so far, and after we enjoy it on the day of baking, I wrap 4 slices together and freeze them. Within 10 minutes at room temperature and a brief encounter with our small Breville oven, they are as good as freshly baked.

Before I leave, allow me to share a link to  the best 10 breads to have in your repertoire according to Dan Lepard. I was happy to see several that I made (and blogged about) included in his list.  

ONE YEAR AGO: Maureen’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Wheat Berry Caraway Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Mexican Focaccia 

FOUR YEARS AGOSunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

SIX YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls


This recipe goes to the OMG FILES.

I realize with the heat wave hitting most places in the US of A this may not be too appealing, but keep in mind that my dear friends and family in São Paulo are freezing. My friends in Australia probably shivering a little, so folks, this one is for you. By the way, did you know that no homes have central heating in São Paulo? That means when the temperature is 40 F outside, it is about 40 F inside too.  I remember – not too fondly – the ordeal it was to wake up during winter and cover the distance between bed ant bathroom for the morning shower. The reverse happens in the summer, very few homes have air-conditioning and well, you know how hot a tropical country can get.  But, back to food. This is a fantastic recipe. The crock pot works perfectly for this type of meat. Best if made a few days in advance, so that all those sauce flavors intensify in the fridge. Lamb shanks are Phil’s favorite, he always orders them in restaurants, if available. He was a super happy camper that evening… Even more so because I managed to surprise him. Prepared the braise during the weekend and awed him a couple of days later.  What’s for dinner tonight? Oh, nothing special, just some braised lamb shanks… (not sure why I never got a call from Hollywood).



(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

1 shallot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup water
2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (I used canned)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lamb shanks, external fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup red wine

Put the shallot, celery, carrots,, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf in a slow cooker and stir to combine.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Add the shanks and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Remove the sauté pan from the heat, pour in the wine and return to medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the wine to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large serving dish.

Remove the bay leaf from the cooking liquid. If you’d like to de-fat the sauce, transfer the crock pot to the refrigerator, or save the shanks and the sauce in separate containers in the fridge.  Next day remove the fat congealed on the surface.  If you like a very smooth sauce, puree the liquids until smooth, add to the meat, then re-heat the whole thing together.  Alternatively, you can keep the sauce and veggies as they are in the final braising and serve with the shanks.


to print the recipe, click here

meat and sauce

Every once in a while our grocery store will carry cute packages of New Zealand lamb shanks, and sometimes they even put them on sale for a lot less than the “arm and a leg” price tag they normally go for. Fully aware of Phil’s endless love for lamb shanks, I keep an eye for those sales. June started with a few days of cool weather, perfect for this type of meal.

Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks


The meat was literally falling off the bone…  I kept the carrots and celery in pieces instead of pureeing the sauce, do whatever you prefer. Served with mashed cauliflower and sweet peas, this was good enough to make me long for winter. Ha! Did I fool you? Probably not. By now  you should know that long for and winter are never in the same sentence for me.

pinterestlambGo ahead and pin me!

ONE YEAR AGO: How about some coffee with your steak?

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Spiral Kick

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

FOUR YEARS AGO: Granola Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes


Better late than never, I can finally share a little cake to celebrate my 7th year of  food blogging. I knew I wanted to make a layered cake this time and also knew it had to be from a new cookbook I fell in “love at first page.”  Granted, I have quite a few books dedicated to cake baking, but Layered might be my favorite now. Not only Tessa Huff’s explanations are detailed enough to give confidence to a cake-challenged person, but  many of her cakes have enticing, unexpected flavors. Sure, you will find a chocolate cake, a shortbread strawberry, a Boston cream pie, but she will also awe you with combinations that bring together Raspberry and Stout.Lavender and Olive Oil... Butterscotch and Bourbon...   Pink Peppercorn and Cherry… Those are included in a wonderful chapter called “Adventurous Cakes.”  I have The Cake Bible from Rose Beranbaum and love it too, but I’d say that about 1/4 of the recipes of that book appeal to me, whereas I would gladly try more than 80% of the recipes from Layered.  Funny thing is that I almost did not buy it because I’m not too fond of naked layered cakes, and that’s what I saw on the cover of the book. Clearly I am part of a minority, as they are very popular these days.  But reading the many great comments on amazon made me change my mind.  So, it’s now officially confirmed the wisdom of:  “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  HA!

Red Velvet Cake


Red Velvet Cake with Heritage Frosting, from Layered: Baking, Building and Styling Spectacular Cakes.

Originally this cake is supposed to have 6 layers, so you’ll make 3 red velvet cakes and slice each one crosswise in half. I baked three cakes, but as I started the assembly next day, I thought it was tall enough using only two of them. Plus, probably due to my inexperience and very limited skills, the amount of frosting I ended up with would not be enough to fill and cover a higher cake. Gravity plays tricks on me on a regular basis, perhaps it’s due to my last name. But, independent of the amount of available frosting, I liked the way it turned out as a 4-layer production, easier to slice and serve.

The cake component…  The cake batter uses grapeseed oil and sugar beaten together. To that, some eggs and red food coloring (preferably gel) are added and incorporated. Then, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, a touch of salt are sifted and added to the oil mixture in batches, together with buttermilk. Once the batter is smooth, a bit of baking soda dissolved in vinegar gets into the mixer.  The batter is divided equally into three 6-inch cake pans, and baked until a toothpick comes out clean.


The frosting… contrary to most Red Velvet Cakes, this frosting is not based on cream cheese. It is an old-fashioned recipe called “Heritage Frosting” that starts with a thick cooked paste made with milk and flour. That gets incorporated into butter and sugar creamed together with a touch of vanilla. Very unusual, I had never heard of this type of frosting but it was reasonably easy to work with.

Normally, Buck would be right by my foot and ready to take care of any potential messes. However, having learned painful lessons in the past, I decided that red food coloring and a Jack Russell could be too fiery a match.  Both him and Oscar stayed outside for the duration of my baking adventure. However, they both developed a fascination with my sandal even long after I washed it. Scent of a Frosting. It has movie potential…

Well, for once I will say this cake baking experience was “almost painless.”  At least the cake itself. No problems. A little hyperventilation here, another there, but overall fine. The frosting is another story. Every time I try to frost a cake, I feel this intense respect for those who do it for a living.  I opted for a rustic look, because hell would have to freeze over twice before I could apply a smooth layer of frosting to the top of a cake, let alone its sides…   But even if there is room for improvement in my technique, I think this was one tasty cake!


Here’s what Phil had to say about it:

Quite often the frosting overpowers the taste of a cake, but this was not the case. The cake is flavorful, it has a very nice texture.  It’s substantial without being too heavy. Slices very well with a sharp knife without crumbling all over the place. The frosting is very creamy but stands well on the cake. It is much less sweet than buttercream or double-boiled white icing.  Enthusiastically approved!

Well, after getting enthusiastic approval from the resident cake critic, I enthusiastically invite you  to join me on my 8th year in the blogosphere… 

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemon-Lavender Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes



(picture courtesy of our dear friend Karl)

Seven years blogging! Cliché or not, time goes by fast when you’re having so much fun…  The other day I was reading a very insightful blog post in which the blogger asked the question “why do we blog?”  In her case, the question arose mainly because after several years publishing posts, she realized a pattern. She would get excited about writing posts and go on periods of a lot of activity, then abandon her site for months in a row. Feeling guilty about it the whole time. Basically the blog becomes more a source of pressure/pain rather than pleasure, meriting the question “why do it?”.  For me, the question is easy to answer: blogging is fun, it makes me a better cook (or at least more adventurous), and it leads to many wonderful connections with other food bloggers (and readers), forming a sort of virtual family. So, there you have it, seven years and I have not tire of it yet. I don’t have a cake to celebrate the occasion because it was humanly impossible to bake one before our trip considering how busy we were then. Landing back on the very day of my blog-anniversary, I am forced to postpone the virtual party for a few days. Stay tuned. I do have a specific cake recipe in mind, and if all goes well… it will be legendary!

(I probably jinxed myself once more)


Six cakes from previous Bewitching anniversaries…


ONE YEAR AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

FIVE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

SIX YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!



Here we are, with the whole family enjoying a relaxing week in one of our favorite spots on Earth, the North Shore of Oahu.  I hope to have a new post coming up soon, for the time being life is busy in a deliciously unusual way….




ONE YEAR AGO: Baby Back Ribs with Tomatillo Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: Ten Years Ago

THREE YEARS AGO: Someone Got a Summer Shave

FOUR YEARS AGO: Border Grill Margaritas


SIX YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough