And now for something completely different. I will share a few recipes straight from blogs I follow. You can click on the link to the original blog posts to get the recipes that perk your interest…

(from Carlos’ blog)

Delicious cookies, filled with dulce de leche, which reminds me so much of my childhood!  My Mom used to pressure cook cans of condensed milk, open them to reveal the luscious caramel inside, and I would enjoy it by spoonfuls. I was such a picky eater, I suppose having that around would make sure I got enough calories to survive.  Carlos offers THE authentic version for these famous cookies. They are delicate, elegant, and incredibly tasty.

(from Bakers Anonymous)

These are just amazing brownies. A huge hit of chocolate, perfect texture, got rave reviews from the resident brownie critic, who has been very VERY hard to please in the brownie department. His favorite version takes toasted pecans in the mix (follow Helen’s recipe and add 3/4 cup toasted pecans in the final mixing).

(from Jamlab)

This takes your regular banana bread and dresses it up for party… I find that people are usually divided into two groups when it comes to banana bread. Those purists who want a plain, banana-only taste in their loaf, and those who don’t mind bells and whistles. Obviously, this version is dedicated for those in the latter group. Don’t be stingy with the chocolate chips on top. They add a lot, and look super cute.

(from Saving Room for Dessert)

A lot of fun to make, these are egg-free little cakes in bite-size format, deliciously addictive. You can add any kind of jam to their centers. I used boysenberry jam. Other than that, I followed the recipe from Tricia’s blog to a T. They turn out quite elegant also, I visualize them in a tea party next to Peruvian Alfajores. What a nice couple!

(from Helen’s Pastries like a Pro)

These are quite unusual, and the looks do not do justice to their taste. Helen described them so well in her blog, that I could not wait to bake a batch. The base bakes at the same time as the topping, simplifying the preparation quite a bit.  If you are into gingerbread type dessert, you will go nuts for this one. Trust me.

(from Joanne’s Eats Well with Others)

This was an OMG type of cake. I slightly modified her recipe by using a mixture of Meyer Lemon and Blood Oranges, juice and zest. The slices on top were Meyer Lemons, but the drizzle was a mixture of lemons and blood oranges, so in the end the red color spoke louder. It is a very moist and tender cake, intensely fragrant. A crowd-pleaser.

(from Dana’s Wake and Bake Mama)

Baked donuts made as festive as possible through the power of sprinkles. Dana’s recipe is quick to assemble, one-bowl-type-thing. Less things to wash, no need to get the KitchenAid out to play. Granted, maybe I used a bit of a heavy hand with the sprinkles, but they make me happy.


(from Tanya’s Global Bakes)

Last December I went on a compulsive shortbread cookie adventure, and tried several recipes, including one super convoluted from America’s Test Kitchen, in which every single utensil of my kitchen was involved. Tanya’s version won my heart, apart from going a bit over the top with the decoration, I stayed true to her recipe. Two thumbs all the way up for it.

That’s the end of my walk through the blogosphere… all these bakes ended up as part of the Common Table meals, something that has kept me busy and “sane” through these odd times we are going through. Baking is a huge therapy for me, and I know I’m not alone, many of my baking friends feel the same way.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chickpea Burgers, Vegan and Delicious

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons with Ganache Noisette

THREE YEARS AGO: Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

FOUR YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

NINE YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

TEN YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread



My third assignment for the Secret Recipe Club!  When I clicked on my assigned blog – Kudos Kitchen by Renee – I melted on the spot:  the front page was a post composed by her three dogs  (Ivy, Nutmeg and Nell), and they had a lot to bark about!  😉

Renee is an artist (check her store at Etsy), and that alone leaves me in complete awe, because I cannot draw a tree to save my own life! In fact, back in middle school two things terrified me to the point of losing sleep: physical education and art classes.  I was absolutely horrible at both, and wanted to disappear from the planet when it was time to face them. Back to blogging.  I fell in love with Renee’s 4th of July cookies, and adapted them for a Christmas time motif, switching the colors to green and red.  And, since I’ve always wanted to make shortbread cookies, this was a perfect excuse to bake a batch.  Without further ado, and with apologies to Renee, here is my very first attempt at playing Jackson Pollock. You can understand why I was not very popular with the art teachers…   (sigh)

(adapted from Kudos Kitchen by Renee)

for cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

for dipping cookies
1 + 1/2 packages white chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons Crisco, divided
1 tablespoon milk
red and green food coloring

In a large kitchen Aid type bowl, beat together the butter with the brown sugar until creamy. Add the flour, ground hazelnuts, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Beat until smooth.  Remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a log and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. When the dough is firm enough to handle, remove 1 inch balls and shape as a cookie, flattening the surface. Alternatively, you can slice pieces straight from the log, 1/4 inch thick.   Smooth the surface and edges, and place on prepared cookie sheet.   Bake for 15 minutes on until set and very lightly browned on the bottom.  Remove from pan and place the cookies to cool on a rack. Before icing, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Dipping the cookies: melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the 2 + 1/2 tablespoons of Crisco in your microwave.  Check on it often and stir it occasionally until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted.

Using a fork and working with one cookie at a time, dip each cookie, turning it over to coat both sides nicely with chocolate.  Place your dipped cookies on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Follow this step until all of the chocolate is used up.  This amount of chocolate will be enough to coat about 12 cookies.

With the remaining 1/2 cup of morsels, melt them in your microwave again, using 1/2 Tbs Crisco and  1 tablespoon of milk to keep the consistency thinner and better for drizzling.

In two separate small bowls, divide the chocolate and color them with the red and green food coloring. Drizzle the cookies with both colors of icing, using the tines of a fork dipped in water, or if you have the right skills, a little improvised piping bag made with parchment paper.

Place the cookies in the fridge until time to serve them.


to print the recipe, click here

A few things I learned from this baking adventure…

1.  Run away from the small tubes of food coloring gel, because even if you squeeze the full tube of green gel in  1/4 cup of melted chocolate, the resulting icing will have a pale lime color. Go for the real McCoy, the type that you need to use a toothpick to grab the tiny amount that gets the job done.

2. White chocolate is not for sissies.   When Renee says to make sure the chocolate is fully melted and smooth, she knows what she’s talking about.  Lumps get together and seem to multiply at a fast rate.  Then, right before your eyes, the whole thing turns into a solid mess.

3. White chocolate is not for sissies. Melted chocolate, when smooth and fluid,  has a remarkable tendency  to splatter.  Certain types of dog fur catch droplets of icing with high efficiency, and don’t wash easily.

4. Have I mentioned that white chocolate is not for sissies?  Buy more than you think you’ll need. Have a cup of chamomile tea before icing your cookies.   You may need three shots of tequila after.

But it will all be worth it, these cookies were amazing!  You can play with the colors to match your favorite football team, or go real artistic and draw something over the white chocolate canvas, like red hearts for Valentine’s Day!  😉

Renee, it was great to get to know your blog, hope you had as much fun as I did with your assignment this month!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Focaccia, with a Twist

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

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I cannot think of a better way to re-open the Bewitching Kitchen than a loaf of sourdough bread!  My sourdough starter was refreshed the day before we left L.A., and a small amount came with us in the car.  One more refreshment once we arrived, and I was back in business. Instead of using a recipe from a book, I adapted a basic formula, adding three ingredients that remind me of our times in L.A.

1. Kalamata olives, because we went through countless bottles of the very affordable and delicious  Trader Joe’s pitted Kalamatas.  We brought a bottle with us, it will be a sad day when it’s finished now that we don’t have a Trader Joe’s 3 miles from home.

2. Red pepper flakes, because quite a few of our friends in L.A. were heavy into hot and spicy food (and drinks!).  The more we hang out with them, the more we got into pepper ourselves.

3. Fresh rosemary,   because it grew wild around our neighborhood.  In fact, on our second week in L.A., I was staring at a huge plant near our house, when the owner of the home came out and said hello.  I asked, in disbelief – “Is this rosemary”?  – she smiled, and told me to get some whenever I wanted, as evidently the plant was threatening to overtake her property!  😉

So, here is my take on a sourdough to bring a little of L.A. into our kitchen.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

200g (ml) water at room temperature
142g  sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
280g bread flour
85g dark rye flour
9 g salt
3/4 cup kalamata olives (cut in half)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Dissolve the starter and the instant yeast in the water in a large bowl.  Add the flour, mix to incorporate (or use a Kitchen Aid type mixer for a couple of minutes on low speed), then cover with a plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed.

Sprinkle the salt on top, and mix by gentle kneading or with the mixer for a few more minutes.  Once the salt is incorporated, add the olives, red pepper, and rosemary, and knead by hand or with the mixer (again in low speed).

Let the dough rise for 3 hours, with quick kneading cycles at 40 min, 1h 20 min, and 2 hours (timing is pretty flexible, no need to pay too close attention to it).  Shape the dough into a round, place in a banetton or other appropriate container with the seam up.  Let it rise for 3 hours, until almost doubled in size, and with an airy feeling as you gently press the surface of the dough.

Bake in a 450F oven,  covered for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and lower the temperature to 425F for the remaining time.  If you have a favorite method to create steam, use it in the initial baking. I prefer to use a roasting pan previously filled with water, emptied of the water and quickly inverted on top of the loaf as my steam source.

Let the bread completely cool on a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Wild yeast purists, forgive me, because I cheated.  Yes, I admit, I added commercial yeast to this bread.  It turns out that I baked it the day after arriving home, and my schedule for that day was a bit iffy.  I wanted to make sure the bread would be ready to bake before too late.  Also, I was hoping for a crumb  a little more tight, to use the bread for sandwiches, so I proofed a little less and reduced the number of kneading cycles.

The bread has intense olive flavor, and a nice hint of heat every now and then.   The rosemary flavor was not as strong as I had hoped for,  so next time I’ll increase that amount.   A delicious bread, fantastic as an open face sandwich with a slice of ham, cheese, tomato slices, and a run under the broiler.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

and you can also see it on Tastespotting

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For reasons that escape me,  that might just justify seeking professional help, I bought another cookbook.   Worse yet, it was another bread book.  Considering that my present situation is far from optimal for bread baking, I wonder if even the best therapists are good enough to help me.  However, in my defense,   Carol Field’s  “The Italian Baker” is wonderful!   It covers breads from all over the country, always with some background information on their origins and detailed instructions on their preparation, using manual kneading, a mixer, or the food processor.   The book doesn’t have photos, just simple drawings.  In another cookbook this approach might bother me, but in this case I don’t mind being without pictures, because the richness of the text compensates for their absence. Carol’s descriptions make me want to bake every recipe in her book – which includes almost 100 breads!

(adapted from Carol Field)

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
4.5 T olive oil
1.5 to 2 T fresh rosemary leaves, chopped fine (or 3/4 T dried)
10 g salt
450 g all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse sea salt for sprinkling over the bread

Mix the warm water with the yeast in a large bowl, wait for a few minutes until it gets bubbly. Stir the milk and oil with the paddle blade. Add the rosemary leaves, flour, and salt to the bowl. Mix gently until the flour is moistened, change to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Remove the dough and knead by hand for a couple of minutes.

Place the dough inside an oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1.5 hours. Carefully remove from the bowl, shape into a ball, and let it rise for 45 to 55 minutes, but don’t allow it to double in size.

As you wait for the final rise, heat the oven to 450F. Slash the bread with a razor blade forming an asterisk on top, then sprinkle coarse salt inside the cuts. Bake 10 minutes with steam, reduce the oven temperature to 400F and bake for 35 minutes more. Remove the bread to a rack to cool, and don’t cut it for at least one hour.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Carol says this is one of her favorite breads because its simple preparation allows her to have it at the table almost at the spur of the moment.  Although you could make it with dry rosemary, I urge you to use fresh, and go for the maximum amount recommended.  The flavor is not at all overpowering, and the pleasant hint of rosemary  makes this bread a good match for many types of sandwiches.  We enjoyed it in sandwiches of thinly sliced flank steak, grilled medium rare, and didn’t even add any cheese.   But of course, a little burrata on top and a quick run under the broiler will satisfy your most hedonistic inclinations.

The detail of sprinkling coarse salt in the slashes is pure genius!  Every once in a while you get this extra punch of  flavor, as the salt enhances the herbal tone of the bread.  Perfect.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken (the most popular post in the Bewitching Kitchen, recipe from Ad Hoc)

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Before we left on our journey to L.A., I had this bread in my “to bake soon” list.  Life got impossibly busy, but I didn’t worry too much, because I knew it would be a perfect bread for the nano-kitchen: minimal kneading, and doable in our toaster oven.  Several of my virtual friends made this bread and raved about it, but that’s a no-brainer: Dan Lepard is the man behind the formula.  😉

(from Dan Lepard – The Guardian website)

75g semolina or cornmeal, plus more to finish (I used fine cornmeal)
150 ml boiling water + 200 ml warm water
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp honey (I used agave nectar)
1 Tbs yogurt
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
450 g bread flour
(olive oil for kneading)

Spoon the semolina into a mixing bowl, pour 150ml of boiling water over it, stir well and leave for 10 minutes. Use a fork to mash the butter, honey, yogurt and salt into the mixture, then slowly work in 200ml of warm water, breaking up any lumps with your fingers. Stir in the yeast and flour, work to a smooth, soft dough and leave for 10 minutes.

Give the dough three 10-second kneads on an oiled surface over 30 minutes, then leave, covered, for an hour. Roll the dough to about 25cm x 35cm on a floured surface, lay on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and leave covered for 20 minutes. Cut the dough into eight flat rectangular “rolls”  but do not separate them, just make a deep incision all the way down the baking sheet. Leave, covered, until risen by half (I cut into six rectangles, and allowed them to rise for 25 minutes).

Heat the oven to 465F.  Brush the tops of the buns with water, sprinkle with semolina and score a deep crisscross on top with a knife. Bake for about 20 minutes, until brown on top.  Let it cool for at least one hour on a rack before amazing yourself at how delicious the rolls taste.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This bread is so simple to prepare that I am still a bit shocked by how good it turned out.  If you haven’t yet been sold to the idea that minimal kneading makes excellent bread, this recipe will convince you.  I didn’t roll the dough, just stretched it lightly to preserve as much as possible the airy texture acquired in the hour long rise.

Dan made this recipe with pulled pork sandwiches in mind, and the combination would deserve to go into the Sandwich Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, we don’t have any pulled pork at the moment, but the rolls still tasted awesome with ham, cheese and a slice of juicy tomato.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting… the second bread from our Bewitching-Nano-Kitchen.

ONE YEAR AGO: Lavash Crackers

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