Best. Night. Ever (Okay, not really, but it did include carbs and Hugh Jackman)

(This post was written on the evening of September 28, 2013) 


Have you ever sat back and wondered what I could do to have the best night ever? Well, I did just that tonight. After my children fell asleep by 9:00 pm! 9 pm!!!! I took a shower and decided to write for a bit on my fixed Macbook. So, my night was already looking good. I pontificated briefly on this very idea and decided to 1) indulge my cravings for carbs by baking these very yummy 40-Minute Buns (I’m linking to the recipe so you can hate me after you’ve gained four pounds like I have) and thought about what else would make this evening’s perfection complete. It came to me suddenly, like so many good ideas do.


Hugh Jackman. I was going to spend this evening with Hugh Jackman. I would bake, eat a couple of warm and delicious rolls, write, and let’s not forget the bit with Hugh Jackman. I decided to watch “The Fountain”. Now, I know I probably won’t be perceived as truthful here, but I’m not attracted to Hugh Jackman. For me, what I like most about him – besides his acting talent, is that he’s a family man. He seems devoted to his wife and children and I find that wonderful and highly admirable. He seems like a truly nice guy, as well with good character, and there’s a whole lot to be said for that, in my book.


The rolls came out perfectly, by the way. And they were delicious. (I have tweaked the recipe a bit to work for our particular tastes, i.e.; the recipe calls for a set amount of sugar, I find that amount to be far too much and use less.)


More on baking

I love cast iron cookware, plain or enameled. The blue pot is one my grandmother gave me shortly after I married. After doing some research, I have come to the conclusion that it’s probably from the 1950’s or ’60’s. This is my main bread baking pot – I don’t use it for much else. I see them on etsy and ebay and always want to buy more. It’s scarred, with a lot of blemishes and aesthetic imperfections – and it’s my absolute favorite pot to bake bread in.

Dru Holland close up

The Lodge cast iron combo cooker I bought from Amazon last year. I love this thing too. It’s a beast of a worker and is great for bread, stew, soup, anything. You can cook in the lid while you’re cooking in the pot – it’s great. This I use occasionally for bread, but I really prefer an enameled cast iron for bread baking. If /when my Dru Holland pot meets its demise, I like the looks of the Lodge enameled Dutch oven. It’s not nearly as pricy as Le Creuset and has mostly all positive reviews. I would order the 6-qt. one for baking, although the 7.5- qt looks like you could cook an entire meal in it on a cold, cold night, and serve piping hot. And now I’m incredibly hungry from writing that.

Lodge and Dru.

Bread in Dru

I’m baking bread today. Here in the PNW, it is a relatively balmy 40 degrees outside but the rain is pouring down, the damp is invasive and I love to have the oven on on days like this. The permeating aroma of baking bread, the sound of the rain on the roof, it’s a perfect day for baking. It’s the kind of ugly day where you just want to stay in and cuddle up on the couch under a warm blanket and watch a movie or get wrapped up in a good book.


I bought a few dozen cloth diapers about six years ago – high quality, prefolds, seconds (one of the larger sizes). I got them on sale and use them for letting the bread dough rise. They’re only used in the kitchen, for food purposes (bread and other) and they were a terrific investment.



Do you cook in cast iron? What are your favorite brands? Do you have an old standby that you go to each time you cook or bake a specific item? What are some of your money saving tips for the kitchen?

Adventures in bread and pizza baking and making

My youngest daughter has severe food allergies, which was discovered during allergy testing after a full blown anaphylactic reaction. One of her allergens is found easily in many baked goods as well as skin care products and cosmetics. We have found eating at home to be not only necessary but it also has the added bonus of being financially practical as well.


I had always enjoyed baking but never had the time to indulge much, with working full time. After my children were born and I stayed home, I still didn’t have that much time to slip into the kitchen to mix ingredients and bake, with my girls being not-quite thirteen months apart in age. As they got older, I would bake the usual fare – birthday cakes, cookies on occasion, and muffins. After my youngest daughter’s allergy diagnoses I started baking a lot more and I began with bread. I found a recipe that looked relatively easy and my first few attempts, weren’t great – I didn’t own a stand mixer with a dough hook so I did it by hand and the first few times, the bread would come out of the oven with some parts still full of unmixed flour. Or it would be too dense and not airy, the way I wanted it. I missed the perfect loaves I used to get  from the Whole Foods bakery section – Seduction bread and the ciabatta bread. I had to get better at this bread baking business.


Turning vegan for me wasn’t so much a matter of choice but of necessity. I’m horribly lactose intolerant, like, you don’t even want to know what happens when I eat dairy. After I cut that out, I had no taste for meat, and from there my taste for other animal products dropped away. But growing up an Italian girl from the East coast, I spent my childhood eating pizza indiscriminately – fair pizza, good pizza, fantastic pizza, and (my personal favorite) perfect pizza. I still loved pizza (even though I’ve never found a cheese substitute that works for me) and I started with a recipe in one of my cookbooks and set to work, The pizza dough was easy – which was a success I needed after my sub-par loaves of bread.


I went back to the bread. A carb addict from way back when, I can remember childhood Thanksgivings spent avoiding the turkey and vegetables, and happily eating a plateful of mashed potatoes and rolls. I had to master the art of bread baking, I just had to. Over a period of about six months I improved my mixing and kneading techniques. I switched out the pinch of sugar for a touch of honey and my bread eventually came out lighter and airier, the way I had hoped for. I stuck with this bread for the next few years until a friend found success with a no-knead method she had read about in Jim Lahey’s book  “My Bread” and suggested I read the book and give it a try. I did and I’ve never wanted to look back since. I bought a food scale and could throw two bowls of bread dough together in less time than it took me to do anything else in the kitchen. After getting married, my grandmother had given me a super old enameled cast iron pot that I had never used much in the six years I’d had it, but it was perfect for baking the bread in. I’ve been baking this bread now for about a year and each time it seems to improve, or so says my husband.


By the way – if you’re interested, I just noticed when getting the link for the Jim Lahey book that he has a new book on making pizza.


Do you have a particular method you prefer with bread dough? Love a specific stand mixer? Have a great cheese substitute idea to share? Please do!