Polish Pastries

I’ve been struggling with Windows all morning, so instead of
telling you about yesterday’s
concert
, I’ll just show you the pictures I took of the
pastry. I mostly got the homemade ones; there were also some
good ones ordered from the internet.

[mazurki]

Mazurki

The way my family makes them, mazurki are a cookie base
with chocolate, nuts, and fruit on top. When I went to Poland
at Easter, we spent the whole of Holy Week making several dozen
kinds.

[jelly roll]

[poppy seed roll]

[small lemon pastries]

[torte]

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This isn’t something you need a recipe for, but I just made a
minor adjustment to the way I make them, so I thought I’d blog
about it and maybe it would inspire you to make an adjustment to
yours. (Or to comment about how you do it instead.)

Short of incinerating the bread, there isn’t much you can do
wrong, after you’ve bought or baked the right kind of bread and
cheese.

The bread should be sliced, or sliceable, into even,
sandwich-depth slices. The cheese has to be the hard kind that
can be sliced with a knife, and the kind that melts. Some
people think it’s more fun if it’s the kind that elongates into
a string when it’s melted and you pull on it. Otherwise, just
make sure that both the bread and the cheese are something you
like eating — if you don’t like them raw, they aren’t going to
get any better cooked.

These days, I’m using When Pigs
Fly
New York Rye bread, and whatever sharp
cheddar cheese was on sale the last time I shopped for cheddar
cheese.

Take a slice of bread out of the freezer. You do keep your
bread in the freezer, don’t you? Unless you have a large family
that eats toast for breakfast and/or sandwiches for lunch every
day, your bread usage is probably small and erratic enough that
you should.

Turn the heat on medium under your favorite skillet or frying
pan. Butter one side of the bread and put that side on the
skillet.

Slice enough cheese to cover the bread, and put it on the
unbuttered side of the bread in the skillet. (If you’re adding
something like slices of apple or onion, put them on before the
bread, but I usually make grilled cheese when I can’t stand the
idea of cooking complicated enough to need slicing things.)

Here’s my new innovation: put the cover on the skillet. Before
I started doing this, I often had a fair amount of burned
surface on the bottom of the bread before the cheese
melted.

Leave it until the cheese is melted, maybe 5 minutes, but keep
checking. If you smell the bread burning, it’s gone too far.

You will notice that this is an open-faced sandwich. I decided
a few years ago that it was a lot easier to get the right ratio of
filling to bread that way, and I make all my sandwiches that way
these days. I would change this if I needed to pack them, but
nobody packs grilled cheese.

Kombucha


[kombucha]

I talked to someone yesterday who’s been brewing Kombucha. I’d
heard of it but never tasted any, so I picked up a bottle at the
grocery store last night.

I just had some, and enjoyed it. It’s a pleasantly sour
taste. The bottle I bought is a bit sweeter than I would aim for
if I were brewing my own.

So I might just try brewing some. Brewing beer is really a bit
strenuous and space intensive for my current way of life, but I do
like having living things to watch in my kitchen.

Semolina and Fennel bread

I originally got this recipe from the Cuisinart Bread Machine
cookbook. The bread machine died, but the cookbook is much
better than the one that came with the cheaper machine I
replaced it with.

I made it last night for the band, and everyone really liked
it. I’m including the original proportions, but last night I
only had 2 cups of Semolina flower (so I used an extra cup of
bread flour), and I used dried cranberries
instead of golden raisins.

Water, room temperature 1 2/3 cups
Sea salt 2 teaspoons
Fennel seed 2 teaspoons
Granulated sugar 1 teaspoon
Semolina flour 3 cups
Bread flour 1 cup
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Golden raisins 3/4 cup

Place water, salt, fennel seed, sugar, semolina flour, bread flour and yeast, in order
listed, in the bread pan.
When the mix-in tone sounds, add the
raisins.

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Julie and Julia (the movie)

The
movie
was more fun than the book. Or to be more precise,
the movie is based on two books, and probably the one about
Julia Child was more fun than the one about Julie Powell.

My favorite scene was the one where Julia has just started at
the
Cordon Bleu cooking school and she’s trying to chop
onions and everyone else is going “chop, chop, chop, chop” and
Julia is going “sli——-ce, sli——ce” and is clearly never
going to finish. So the teacher demonstrates how to hold the
knife, and the movie cuts to Julia’s kitchen and she’s going
“chop, chop, chop, chop” and there’s a foot high pile of already
chopped onions next to her.

There is good stuff about cooking in Queens as well as about
cooking in Paris. So if you like the idea of this movie, you’ll
probably enjoy the movie.

Meryl Streep doesn’t actually look much like Julia Child, but
she does do the sound and the attitude quite well.

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Mulled Cider

This is simple enough to be more of a procedure than a recipe,
but since I’ve seen people spend a lot more time and money for
less good results, I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

I do this pretty much any time in the winter that I’m having
people over. You have to be able to buy cider without
preservatives. For this purpose, pasteurization doesn’t matter,
but I’m sure the preservatives make a difference in the flavor,
and they aren’t at all necessary.

I always use the crock pot, because having the drinks out of my
(small) kitchen is a good idea if I’m also doing any kind of
cooking. But if you have the right traffic path, you can
certainly use a large pot on the stove.

Then you need something like a tea ball or a small cloth bag or
just a handkerchief or other cloth. Put all the whole
spices in your cabinet into the center of the handkerchief or
other receptacle and close it. (In the case of the
handkerchief, you tie the opposite corners together.)

I think you should buy cinnamon sticks for this purpose if you
don’t have them. Otherwise, use whatever you have. Some possibilities:

  • The little
    slivers of nutmeg that you can’t grate any more on the grater
    without grating your fingers, too.
  • Cloves
  • Whole allspice
  • Cardamom. (Take the seeds out of the pod, if you have the
    pods.)
  • Star Anise

Put the cider and the spice ball or bag into your chosen pot.
Bring to a boil and turn down to a very low simmer. If you do
this before the guests arrive, you can offer them hot cider when
they get there. They will appreciate this if it’s a cold day.
Otherwise, have it with dessert.

There are people who will sell you official cider mulling
spices, and if you don’t have any of the above items in your
cupboard and can’t think of anything you want to do with them
except make mulled cider, that makes sense. But if you put
cloves in ham or star anise in pork or fresh ground nutmeg in
anything, you don’t need the mulling spices too.

For some reason most of the recipes add sweetener, but I’ve
never seen any necessity for it. Maybe they used to make cider
with less sweet apples, and the recipe writer haven’t noticed
that plain cider is plenty sweet enough now.

If you’re thinking about one-ingredient hard cider, this is the
wrong way to go about it. After the boil and simmer, the cider
doesn’t ferment anything like as fast as the stuff straight from
the store does.

Three Quarters Done, and Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday was the three quarter mark on this year of blogging
every day. I’ve been meditating on how I’ll blog when I don’t
have to do it every day.

There will be fewer junk posts because it’s almost lunch time
and I have to write something.

There will also be no posts at all on days I don’t have time to
write one.

But I believe I read books and watch movies with more
concentration because I know I’ll want to write about it later,
and I’ll keep doing that. And I’ll keep writing about the toys
I want to complain about.

This is a short, easy one because I still have housecleaning to
do before I make the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and
organize the drinks and appetizers. My guests are making most
of the side dishes, but there’s still a lot of work.

So Happy Thanksgiving, if you’re one of the people who
celebrates it today.