Tag Archives: Breads and Rolls

Simple Spelt Bread (From A Bess Inspired Brunch)

January 2013

When I think of Sweden, I think of minimal design, foggy colors, folk patterns, bold reds, bungalows, strong, dark coffee and dense, grainy bread. One day, I hope to experience all of my associations first hand, but for the time being, I merely channeled some of those elements for a Bess Inspired Brunch.

Bess Inspired Table 02

This bread may very well become a staple. It’s so simple and quick to make, and though dense, this nutty flavored bread is far from the feeling of cutting into a brick. It works really well as a tartine. Here are a few suggested combinations:

Bread + Neufchatel + Fresh Dill + Capers + Salmon
Bread + Neufchatel + Avocado + Salmon
Bread + Neufchatel + Roasted Beet + Fresh Dill

Spelt Bread and Tablecloth

With a little bow, this bread could easily become a gift for a dinner party host, and with this flavor packed butter, a slice of this bread could really change your breakfast routine. I hope this becomes one of your staples!

Spelt Bread Ingredients

Simple Spelt & Flax Bread


4 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup golden roasted flax seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
*2 cups and 2 tablespoons milk (I used 1 ½ cups half & half + whole milk due to what was in my refrigerator)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the spelt flour, flax seeds, salt, molasses, baking soda and milk until well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden.

Placing a tin of the same size or a lid over the top of the loaf while baking gives it a lovely crust.

Sweet Orange Rolls (From A Bess Inspired Brunch)

January 2013

For brunch with Bess, the colors of my various vintage wares put me in a Scandinavian state of mind. When I think of going for coffee and sweets in Sweden (something I have thus far only experienced vicariously), I imagine a beautiful display of spiraling rolls. For this wintry brunch, a sweet orange roll was the answer!

Bess Inspired Table

Should you find yourself with extra orange filling, fret not. It works well on crepes, pancakes or toast in the days following. It’s also lovely to spoon a dollop of warm, orange sauce over the rolls when served.

Orange Rolls

Sweet Orange Rolls 
with Maple Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cups half & half, heated to 115°
1 (1/4-oz.) package active dry yeast

1/3 cup raw sugar
2 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 large egg (local/free-range), lightly beaten

4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

16 Tablespoons (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup orange zest (from about 4-5 oranges)

2 cups honey

1 teaspoon pure orange extract (not optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Combine the milk and yeast in a mixing bowl; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Stir in sugar, melted butter, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and egg

Add flour, and mix until dough forms.

Knead until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel; let sit until dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.


Meanwhile, use a mixer to beat softened butter, brown sugar, and zest in a bowl.

Add remaining salt, honey, and extracts; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface; using a rolling pin, roll dough into an 18″ × 10″ rectangle, and spread filling evenly over dough (there will be extra filling). Roll the dough into a log; trim ends and cut log into 12 rounds.

Transfer rounds cut side up to a greased 9″ × 13″ baking dish; cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 6 hours or overnight.


Heat oven to 375°.

Uncover rolls and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Drizzle extra filling over rolls before serving.


Maple Whipped Cream
*makes enough for rolls and coffees 


1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Snap Liquor


Remember the chilled mixer blades trick?

Use an electric mixer [with chilled mixer blades] to whip the cream in a chilled bowl.

Once soft peaks have formed, add the vanilla, maple syrup and Snap and continue to mix until stiffer peaks form.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

A Bess Inspired Brunch

January 2013

I’ve done my fair share of antiquing, thrifting and flea marketing, a claim to which my apartment attests. I’ve never transitioned from buyer to seller in the vintage world, another claim to which my apartment attests. Say I were to find a perfect red set of pyrex with a grain of wheat for a design embellishment, I’d have such a hard time edging that piece out of my life and into another’s vintage inspired home.

Bess Inspired Table 02

Before you submit me to a hoarding show, know that I set limits for myself, have the occasional purge-and-donate spells and really try to use what I collect. Whereas I may cling to closely to my flea market finds, my new friend Bess is building a community of buyers!

Bess Inspired Table

I first met Bess at the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer, an event she cofounded with her etsy shop partners (I want mostly everything her Red Pop Shop has to offer). I was drawn to the event posters featuring the very same iconic Hamilton Beach mixer I have on my kitchen shelf. Subsequently, I was drawn to Bess’s warm personality, her drive to create a vintage community and her push to make Pittsburgh a better place to be. Accordingly, a brunch with Bess seemed like the perfect thing to do!

Orange Rosette

Thus on a snowy yet sunny Sunday morning, I pulled out all my vintage stops to create a Bess inspired brunch!

Bess and Quelcy Brunch

Something about that tablecloth sent my mind to a Scandinavian cottage, and the menu emerged from my wandering mind… orange rolls, spelt bread tartines, fresh squeezed orange juice mimosas, and coffee with a dollop of maple whipped cream (with a spike of Snap!).

Orange Rolls


Orange Rolls and Spelt Bread recipes to follow in subsequent posts.

Spelt Bread Tartines

Here’s to old treasures and new friendships!

Cardamom Muffin Tin Rolls

January 2013

When menu planning, I often like to have a pervading ingredient. For this dinner gathering, the curry of the entrée inspired notes of cardamom in all the accompanying dishes. Rather than make a traditional flatbread, I spiced these whole-wheat, muffin-tin rolls with cardamom.

Cardamom Roll

I sprinkled the tops with Himalayan pink sea salt for a dash of color to channel the colorful and flavorful experience of walking through an Indian street scene. The final touch was a browned butter with honey and cardamom (recipe to come), making this roll ideal for dinner or breakfast or any snacking point in between the two!

Cardamom Rolls in Muffin Tin

Cardamom Muffin Tin Rolls
Adapted from Muffin Tin Mania


2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 package)
1 cup warm milk, not boiling

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 large egg


browned butter
Himalayan pink sea salt
poppy seeds


Dissolve yeast in milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, salt, cardamom and egg. Mix until combined.

Add 2 cups flour and mix until all the flour is moist.

Turn batter out onto a floured work surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to the work surface and hands as needed.

Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat.

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down dough which means pushing down the centre of the dough with your fist and then pushing the edges of the dough into the centre using your fingertips.

Form dough into 36 equal sized balls and place 3 balls in each of 12 greased muffin cups.

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tops of dough with browned butter. Sprinkle with salt and poppy seeds.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until browned.

Elephants Were Hungry

Here’s to cardamom spiced luck & longevity!

Recipes For A High Tea Hike

October 2012

Cambridge, England…

Just shy of one year ago, I spent an amazing two weeks in London, which also meant the opportunity to visit one of my dearest friends. My very smart friend had attended Cambridge University in her “uni” years and wanted to show me the town. With its peaceful pace and historical charm, Cambridge seemed like the prime spot for me to have a proper spot of tea. Though the experience was a bit rushed, and I accidentally ordered a full tea service (meaning enough food for two), I could finally say I had experienced a proper British tea time!

When my blogging friend Heather Mulholland invited me to be a part of her “A Cup of Tea With…” series, I was equally honored and inspired. In her honor, I channeled my British tea experience for A High Tea Hike, which meant scones, egg salad sandwiches, and cucumber goat cheese sandwiches. We even took loose leaf Early Grey into the forest for authentic sipping! The recipes are listed below should you be interested in hosting your own high tea. Hiking is optional but highly recommended!

Butternut Squash Scones


2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup firmly packed organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) organic unsalted butter, cut into chunks

3/4 cup roasted and pureed butternut squash
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon organic half & half

1 large egg yolk
Raw cane sugar


In a bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices and salt.

Add 1/2 cup butter and, with a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in until pea-size crumbs form.

In a small bowl, whisk squash and 1/2 cup half & half until well blended. Add to flour mixture and stir just until dough is evenly moistened.

Scrape onto a lightly floured board, turn over to coat, and gently knead just until dough comes together, 5 or 6 turns.

Pat dough into a 6-inch round 1 1/2 inches thick; use a circle cutting tool to cut small circles. Place shaped dough on a parchment lined baking stone.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolk and 1 tablespoon half & half to blend; brush lightly over tops of scones (discard any remaining egg wash).

In another small bowl, mix raw cane sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste; sprinkle evenly over scones.

Bake in a 375° regular until scones are golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; serve warm or cool.

Egg Salad Sandwiches


8 eggs (local/free-range)
1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced red onion, caramelized
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

*Rocket is British for arugula. I bet British children eat far more leafy greens than American children based on that name alone!


Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the eggs from water. Once they are cool to the touch, remove the shells. Place the eggs in a medium sized bowl, and chop them into smaller pieces.

Add all the remaining ingredients and mix together.

Serve with “rocket” on sprouted whole-grain bread.

Happy High Tea!

A High Tea Hike

October 2012

Alex said, “How about a hike?”
I said, “How about high tea?”
Then autumn summoned summer,
And they worked in perfect harmony.

Serendipitea [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] (noun): the good fortune of picking THE perfect day for a hike and a high tea picnic; the culmination of inspiration from various sources.

In the words of the great philosopher, Steph T., “If you greatly desire something, have the guts to stake everything on obtaining it.”

The hike unfurled like swatches from a paint sampler, with one hue following the next. There were paths through deep yellows, followed by walks through green blankets of ferns, and then there were falling reds and oranges. I felt like Dorothy on a mission with the Tinman, the cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.

The horses marked the spot, and it was here I began to feel like Alice in Wonderland with a Mad Hatter and a crazy cast of characters seated for a proper tea (of sorts).

The forest tea table marked the culmination of previous journeys, past ceremonies, growing friendships and new inspiration.

The forest tea table marked one of my most treasured days. I hiked playfully. I sipped tea warmly. I ate contentedly. I laughed heartily. Put quite simply, I was happy, really, really happy!

As we finished the fall flavored scones, egg salad, cucumber sandwiches and mugs of tea, we continued along the playful path of imagination, on which little mounds of moss became the rolling hills of a distant land. Like little children who play their hearts out until the sun begins to set and mothers call for their return, we had enjoyed one of the last beautiful bursts of fall to its fullest.

Recipes for this Raccoon Creek State Park adventure to come! Stay tuned.

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Shared Plate & Thoughts

September 2012

Printed words, sipped drinks, thoughts shared and a shared plate…these elements seemed to slow time in the best possible way…the way that makes me pause and question why more of my life is not this memorably simple. Every now and then, it’s inspiring to borrow someone else’s words to preserve these moments, and in this case, John Muir’s words take me back to that afternoon…

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. 

“Adult Root Beers” with Art in the Age Root
& Charcuterie

With inexpressible delight you wade out into the grassy sun-lake, feeling yourself contained on one of Nature’s most sacred chambers, withdrawn from the sterner influences of the mountains, secure from all intrusion, secure from yourself, free in the universal beauty. And notwithstanding the scene is so impressively spiritual, and you seem dissolved in it yet everything about you is beating with warm, terrestrial human love, delightfully substantial and familiar. 

One day’s exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers’ plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. 

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

-John Muir

Ushering in Autumn: Harvest Nests

September 2012

When I was a college lass in the architecture program, I designed a home that had to respond to a steep grade, a wooded landscape and the phases of a couple’s life from the first child to retirement. My initial concept was a series of connected nests representing isolated aspects of daily life- eating, sleeping, resting, etc. Whether or not I was too obsessed with bird metaphors (lovebirds, keeping the nest warm, planning for a nest egg, etc), the design veered through the course of the  semester. However, my fascination with nature-inspired design led me to discover a branch of architecture called Biomimicry.

A Thought Project…

Biomimicry’s prophet is Michael Pawlyn, who elaborates on the concept in his TED talk. Pawylyn asks, “How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty?” His answer and the mission of biomimicry is to use nature as a design tool to radically increase resource efficiency, use waste from one organism as a nutrient for another organism, and move from a fossil fuel economy to a solar one. What does that look like?

Maybe like a nest?

A Play Project…

Inspiring architects and designers (and more importantly, the people with the money) to shift their paradigm will take time. In the meantime, one can’t truly debate the issues and innovations of the world without a proper breakfast. Call me old fashioned! Why not have a little fun channeling nature for your breakfast or brunch spread? Here I go with nests again…

Though these nests might not mimic the more intricate systems of a real nest, they do channel elements of sustainability via local and organic ingredients. They also fueled the movers and shakers who attended this brunch to usher in autumn. These nests are blank canvases, so use what’s in season and flavorful and have fun!

Harvest Nests Recipe


12 slices organic honey wheat sandwich bread
3 tablespoons organic unsalted butter (melted)
1 ear of local corn
1 small local squash, roasted, cut into chunks
Fresh local sage, chopped
12 large eggs (local/free-range)
Salt & Pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375° F.

Lightly butter 12 standard-size muffin cups.

Flatten each bread slice with a rolling pin.

Insert flattened bread slices into muffin cups so they fit snuggly.

Brush melted butter over each bread cup.

Add a chunk or 2-3 small chunks of squash, a few kernels of corn and a few pieces of sage to each cup.

Crack one egg into each cup.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until egg white is set (be careful not to overbake it).

Remove from muffin pan and serve!

Happy Red, White & Blueberry!

July 4th, 2012

This Fourth of July, I’m not responsible for a thing except documenting my special one’s pyro side as he choreographs his spectacle, swimming in a creek, swaying in a hammock and riding through the forest on a zippy scooter.  However, there’s always room for a biteful of thematic eating.

Hopefully the grill sends pleasant aromas your way, and the sun shines on your holiday!



Third Time’s A Charm: The Kinfolk Dinner Series

May 2012

Once upon an internet stroll, I happened upon a beautiful, blossoming endeavor entitled Kinfolk.  Beneath a video that admittedly moves my overly sentimental side to watery eyes, was a manifesto that spoke straight to my sensibilities:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us…. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Thus, I made a habit of regularly visiting the pages of Kinfolk.  What impressed me beyond the refined design and the enviable places and products (and they are enviable!), was the way the site seemed to preserve  meaningful moments in time.  Reading Kinfolk feels like a quiet visit to a memory.  

Beyond the awe inspiring posts and publications, Kinfolk began a dinner series tour! When I noticed Philadelphia on the list of cities in the tour, at Terrain specifically, my mind began whirling. Before I knew it, my finger was clicking the option to enter the lottery for tickets. Fortunately, whimsy and practicality worked in a harmony entitled Memorial Day Weekend!

This harmony almost did not come to beautiful, burlap accented fruition. The lottery for dinner tickets did not favor me, but the Monday before the dinner, I received an uplifting email.  Due to a few cancellations, there was room for me and my guest should I still want to attend. Should I still want to attend?!?  Of course I did!

Beyond the excitement of taking part in a Kinfolk dinner, I was especially thrilled with the choice of location.  This marked my third attempt to eat at Terrain.  Please excuse what will surely sound like the “woe is me” ramblings of first world problems when I say my first attempt to visit Terrain (not just Terrain but a craft beer and local honey festival!!!) was thwarted by the heavy rains of a passing hurricane (on the up side, I prepared this meal for my friends, and they’re still talking about it!).  On the second attempt, I took my good old time meandering through the store then joined my place in line to be seated.  As my turn came, I looked at the hostess hopefully, and she announced my second failure- they were no longer taking names.  Hence, attempt number two was a beautiful fail. As I arrived at Terrain, yet again, the other two fails felt purposeful, as if they had led me to this third time, the beautiful, enchanting charm!

And oh, was it charming!

If you, like me, associated Pennsylvania wines with the taste of communion, then you, like me, will be thrilled to discover a wine that proves us wrong.  From what I gather, what distinguishes Galer wines is the intentional choice of which exceptional grapes are suited for PA soils versus existing PA grape varieties turned into wine. Dr. Galer also sought experts in the field of viticulture when he began his endeavor, which you can read about here.

To Start

Flower Pot Bread:  tarragon honey butter, smoked sea salt

Mixed Field Greens:  sliced radishes, wild strawberries, toasted almonds, micro basil, balsamic vinaigrette


Rosemary Honey Mustard Leg of Lamb

Quinoa:  sugar snap peas, baby carrots, english peas, pea tendrils

Kennett Square Mushroom Skillet:  wild mushrooms, organic eggs

Sauteed Lancaster County Vegetables:  Fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, dwarf bok choy


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pecan Pie

To see the beautiful menu in its full glory, click here.  The design came all the way from a talented artist in the Netherlands named Anja Mulder.

Even the napkins added a clean and rustic touch, so I adorned my lap very proper like.

Do you spy the brilliant idea in the photo on the right?  I shall soon try my hand at gardening little pots of soft, fluffy and slightly sweet bread.  Beyond the brilliance of the idea, the bread was one of the most delicious breads I have ever sampled (and I have sampled quite an array of breads!).

One benefit of eating with foodies and photo fiends is the patience given to the documentation of beautiful meals.  These weren’t just any foodies either!  I’ve been a fan of Something’s Hiding in Here ever since I saw the tour of Shauna and Stephen’s Philadelphia loft, so meeting the incredibly enthusiastic and humble couple was much like a celebrity encounter for this dorky blog reader.

Sitting directly to my right was Sullivan Owen, who had adorned the Terrain barn with her floral designs.  Aside from being very friendly and talented, Sullivan offered me lots of business inspiration!  I hope to spend more time learning from Sullivan in the future, and if that time is accented by one of her stunning arrangements, all the better!

That wasn’t all!  Across the table were Andrew and Carissa, the lovely couple behind many a Kinfolk video, specifically the Manifesto video that drew me to Kinfolk in the first place!  I can’t wait to see what they culled from this dream dinner.

Quite the plate!  My favorite main was the Kennet Square Mushroom Skillet. The mushrooms were quite meaty!

One might expect the coffee to be prepared with utmost care at a dinner focused on bringing people together, and one would be right.  Two Rachels served coffee prepared specially for each and every coffee partaker.

They even sent us on our merry ways with a creatively packaged single brew sample.

Additionally, Sullivan offered her floral displays as a generous token of her talents, and the very stylish farmers of Happy Cat Farm bestowed organic tomato plants upon us and an extra pack of seeds in the little totes on a big mission from Nest.  The night just continued to impress!

It was a beautiful dream dinner, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!  My third attempt at Terrain was beyond a charm. Kinfolk shared their own account of the night through the multiple lenses of this talented and personable photographer. I love how dark and saturated Parker’s images are, and I was especially excited to see this photo made the cut.  ;)

Here’s hopin’ many of us cross paths again!

Brunching in Philadelphia: Cafe Estelle

May 2012

A friend sent me this list based on my predilection for brunching. When brainstorming my goals for Memorial Day weekend, three points earned Cafe Estelle a spot on my list:

1.  Cafe Estelle serves brunch on Saturdays.
2.  According to the cafe’s website, they were voted “Best of Philly: Best Brunch.” (Not that I live my life according to ratings and lists, but I do take them into consideration).
3.  The cafe focuses on local, sustainable and organic ingredients as much as possible.

Thus, we found ourselves outside a gated apartment building parking lot on a sunny Saturday in Philly. The locale and facade are not major selling forces for the cafe, nor was the interior brimming with style, but it did offer a few worthy accents.

Cafe Estelle
444 N 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Neighborhoods: Spring Garden, Northern Liberties

Cream Cheese Walnut Sticky Bun
Cream cheese, walnuts, brown sugar, warm cream cheese icing

We spied the remains of one of these monstrous rolls on another table, and those remains were enough to convince us to order our own.  This cinnamon roll was more like cake rolled around itself either because the roll was still very warm and hadn’t set yet or possibly because some woman named Estelle had a very different idea of what a cinnamon roll should be.  Either way, it was a pleasant enough sweet treat for an indulgent morning, but it wasn’t exactly what one would expect when ordering a “cinnamon roll” and therefore, slightly disappointing.

The perk of the self-serve coffee was the variety of options.  I chose a Costa Rican variety for my pretty floral mug.

Strawberry, Rhubarb and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Rhubarb compote and Warm maple syrup

Colossal!  These stacks of French toast were impressively colossal, and the filling was so secretly piped into the center, it was almost magical.  I would have sacrificed some size in exchange for more rhubarb compote and a fresher filling.  The cream cheese filling tasted a bit too runny, as if it had been cut with a strawberry flavored yogurt.  This brunch entree was still worthy of repeated forkfuls, even excessive forkfuls, but again, it didn’t quite live up to the appeal of its description.

Eggs Juan
Poached eggs, salt cod brandade fritters, smoked paprika-tomato hollandaise with homefries and toast

These eggs were just as good as the description!  I’m not sure who Juan is, but I highly recommend his spicy, creamy eggs over fishy fritters!

Overall, I didn’t walk away disappointed, but I probably wouldn’t make a point of returning.

Place Your Attention (Berry Port Wine Sauce)

May 2012

There were several post-birthday bites of maple mousse pie, but as the birthday treat progressively disappeared, the sauce persisted.  Finding uses for a blueberry and cherry port wine sauce is no grand feat, but finding a quiet, content moment in which to enjoy it, might take a bit more intention.

Sometimes I am so busy with my routines or antsy for my next phase in life, I find myself wishing for such a simple desire as reading poetry in the sunshine.  Then I step back and realize I can ignore the minuscule “obstacles,” pick up my book, sit outside and relish a moment just for me, myself et moi.  In a similar vein, a quiet cup of tea, buttery bread and a dripping drizzle of berries is an experience worth savoring.

What do you wish to experience?

My Special One’s Birthday: The Appetizer

April 2012

As for this birthday dinner, let’s start at the beginning… a very good place to start!  I recently had a revelation- tomatoes are starting to taste good again!  The mealy, mushy, wintry days are coming to a close, gradually being replaced by bright red bursts of nature’s candy!  Tasting the improvement in the well traveled tomatoes really heightens my excitement for the summer produce that currently is soaking up the soil’s nutrients!

When I saw this tomato rich appetizer with speck and burrata, I began adding its ingredients to my grocery list immediately!  Though there are a few steps involved, the overall simplicity of this appetizer enabled me to focus more on the main course, which was to be quite …. well, I’ll dive into that later!

This Italian Bella had a different purpose in the birthday affairs, but she was just so photogenic…!  However, had tomatoes not begun to boast fresher, sweeter flavors, I may have called upon her contents in the tomato vinaigrette.

Burrata, Pickled Shallots & Speck Appetizer
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Pickled Shallots

3 large shallots, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
1 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 sweet red pimiento pepper (I used Roland’s)

For the Pickled Shallots

Combine all ingredients and 1 cup water in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

You could use prosciutto in this recipe, but why would you?  On the fateful day in life when I went speck, I solidified my path through this cured life!

Basil and Burrata pair well and boost the alliterative properties of this appetizer!  Burrata is a soft, fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  It’s not a cheese I would prioritize in my regular frommage habits, but for recipes like this, it’s a perfect compliment. If you’re a Pittsburgher, I would suggest Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for sourcing most of the ingredients in this appetizer.  The burrata is sold in an extra layer of plastic container protection to maintain its moisture.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1/2 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, coarsely torn
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Vinaigrette

Combine the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, salt and sugar in a food processor and puree until chunky (or to the best of your old food processor’s abilities).

While the motor is still running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until vinaigrette is slightly thickened.

Final Touches

French Baguette (from La Gourmandine in my case)
Black pepper

For the Final Touch

Slice the baguette, and drizzle a little olive oil on each slice of bread.

Top each slice with a roll of speck, a dollop of burrata, a spoonful of tomato vinaigrette, a slice of shallot, a drizzle of the pickled shallot sauce and parsley.

Season with black pepper. Serve with fresh tomatoes.

A Note On The Leftovers

When I served leftovers of this the next day, I toasted the oiled baguette slices in the oven before garnishing, but the first time around, I hated to toast a fresh, fluffy baguette.  The tomato vinaigrette and pickled shallots also spiced up an organic frozen pizza I lazily made on a weeknight.

The Comforts of Solitude & The Pleasures of Company

April 2012

A lovely friend had an idea for a quiet gathering on a Saturday afternoon.  The Cafe at the Frick has a delectable menu offering and an even more stunning garden setting.  Though we lamented the rain at first drop, a funny thing happened as the droplets drizzled down our window.  Being surrounded by flowers weighed by water droplets became the ideal way to enjoy the garden views, the clink of tea spoons, the hum of little girls in tutus drinking tea like royalty and the tiers of lovely little foods.  It was a perfectly peaceful way of enjoying the rain, as if we were tucked away at a fancy country cottage without a care in the world.  Rather than dissect the delectable tiers of pretty foods, I’d rather just reflect on the powers of tea and good company.

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea,

which is one you forget about afterwards.

~A.A. Milne

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude

and the pleasures of company.

~Author Unknown

Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.

~Honoré de Balzac

The first sip of tea is the always the best…

you cringe as it burns the back of your throat,

knowing you just had the hottest carpe-diem portion.

~Terri Guillemets

Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that,

being offered to persons that have already dined well,

it supposes neither appetite nor thirst,

and has no object but distraction,

no basis but delicate enjoyment.

~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin,

The Physiology of Taste

Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious,

and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise,

and will not use abstinence.

~Samuel Johnson

Bread and water can so easily be [scones] and tea.

~Author Unknown

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.

~Catherine Douzel

Thank you lovely friend for suggesting such a deliciously romantic respite from the rest of the rainy gloom.

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part II): Baked French Toast Cups

April 2012

My love of French toast, and conversely my inability to flip anything in a pan, leads to a lot of baked French toast at my brunching table.  The baked French toast is a blank canvas that can be painted with all sorts of colors and flavors, but for the Epic Brunch on my horizon, I sought to change the canvas as well!  I thought, “wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone felt like a little French toast had been made just for them?”  Thus another miniature menu item popped into my head (the first was the mini alliterative frittatas)!

(Bread from Left to Right)

Friendship Farms Buckwheat Barley Bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]
La Gourmandine’s Pain aux Cereales (Sesame, Flax and Sunflower seeds)
Ultimate Grains’ Double Fiber bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]

If you’re a Pittsburgher, do I have a bread tip for you!  The almond croissants in my eyes blinded me to a magical loaf of bread for far too long.  All these trips to La Gourmandine [my Pittsburgh salvation], and I was too pastry driven to notice the wonderfully grainy, yet pillowy loaf known eponymously as pain aux cereales.  If you’re in the neighborhood, pick up a loaf…on second thought… don’t pick up a loaf!  I want it!  It was only by restraint and a sheer desire for the utmost bread variety that any of that delightful purchase made it to the stale level of French toast potential.  My growing list of La Gourmandine obsessions will surely end in fisticuffs one fateful day!  Don’t let me see you snatch the last almond croissant before me in line.  You have been warned!

Individual Baked French Toasts
Makes 18 French Toast Cups


4 eggs (local/free-range)
2 cups organic buttermilk
5-6 chunks of bread/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of [Bonne Maman] cherry preserves/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup/cupcake
Dash of cinnamon & nutmeg/cupcake
Slivered almonds
Organic brown sugar


Line a non-stick cupcake pan with natural parchment cupcake liners.

Add about 5-6 chunks of bread to each cupcake, followed by the cherry preserves, almond extract, vanilla extract, maple syrup and spices.

In a measuring glass, mix the eggs and buttermilk. Pour over each cupcake, making sure to fully saturate the top of the bread. Use additional buttermilk to saturate any dry pieces.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Sprinkle almond slivers and brown sugar on top of each cupcake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped maple mascarpone topping and Bonne Maman cherry preserves!

Whipped Maple Mascarpone Topping


1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract


Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.  ‘Tis all!

Stay tuned for the rest of the Epic Brunch of Miniature Proportions!

A Diningsaur, A Pig & A Chicken

March 2012

I have forged a few foodie bonds through that chirping bird (exhibit A)!  One such Twitter foodie friend escaped the Pittsburgh scene before we even had a chance to meet.  I don’t fault Rodzilla Reviews too much, since he left for sunnier skies, West Coast vibes and to be involved with this appetizing endeavor.  Before he left Pittsburgh, he offered a parting giveaway:  a $40 gift certificate to Union Pig & Chicken (note the offering occurred prior to the opening, so the anticipation was intense!!).

Failing to internalize the “random” aspect of the giveaway, I offered this as the reason I should have won:

Esteemed Rodzilla,

If I win, I’ll wear an orange neckerchief AND bring a dinosaur to the dinner table. I’ll take lots of pictures, so you’ll feel as though you actually enjoyed the gift card. I’ll also be less bitter about you leaving for a warmer place. Additionally, this gift card would really help me not to crave Meat & Potatoes for one night (and maybe one night only). And if I really have to dig deep, I’ll throw out the term “care package” for the win [I'm holding off on my "care package" claims for the time being, since that diningsaur is busy feasting on beauties like this, in constant sunshine and perfect breezes]! In conclusion, thanks in advance!

Ever so humbly,


ps: I’m really competitive, so I’m trying really hard to resist trash talking here. I can’t promise anything if a lot more people respond.

I didn’t win.  The luck of the draw did not favor me, but true to my word…

Rodzilla the Diningsaur’s Trip to Union Pig & Chicken

He did try to eat the menu.  It made me questions his tastes.

Blueberry Mint Rock & Rye (a special for the night)
You sure were thirsty, but after the hints of berry and mint were gone, you concluded the Onion, Black Pepper & Local Maple Rock & Rye is still the superior drink option.

Pork Shoulder
Though you did eat your fair share of that shoulder, your consumption was largely aided by the flavor and strength of the sauces.  You were left wanting. 

Damn if you didn’t help yourself to that cornbread!  It’s so sweet and buttery!  I tried to fight you, but in the end, I let you win [full disclosure:  you complimented my orange neckerchief, and the flattery caused me to let down my guard].

You’d heard some negative comments about the beans, but what did that British fella know anyway?!?  You liked the sweet kick to the bbq beans, and you also wondered…were those bites of hotdog from the other Sousa joint?!?

Your favorite?!?  The ribs!  Obviously.  You were pretty luck to snag any ribs at all once Jono set his eyes on his bbq prize!  Your snarl must have intimidated him into sharing. That’s a good trick!

Rodzilla the Diningsaur forgot to add one more comment:  it was so obvious to him the menu lacks PIE!!!  Cherry pie would look lovely with the red checkerboard decor!  It would look even lovelier with a dollop of homemade ice cream?!?  Maybe pecan pie or a lemon chess pie would be more traditional?

In the end, Rodzilla loved the long wooden tables, wooden walls, low hanging lights and hints of red so much, he decided to stay at Union Pig & Chicken permanently (he was also feeling a little too greasy to enter the world anyway).

So concluded your bbq adventure With The Grains!

Brunch For A Babyhood Friend

March 2012

Crazy sisters made somehow crazier by adulthood… looming life questions… the jobs we have worked versus the jobs we expected to have… the broken hearts along the way… the parents we try to understand more and more… the desire to be more creative… these are the occurrences and developments that keep us on the same page, and this was the brunch that brought us to the same table.

Erica grew up in the corner green house.  I grew up in the red, brick house on the opposite corner.  We were neighbors, but we were also like family.  She was the like the little sister I never had, and when we put our heads together, the most inventive adventures ensued!  I won’t wave our crazy flags too specifically, but I figured Jono would be enthused to have a glimpse into my even weirder childhood, hence the three plates.


Mixed Greens
Organic Raspberries
Sliced almonds
Dried Figs
Goat cheese


Dijon mustard
Olive Oil
Cabernet Wine Vinegar
Maple Syrup

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread w/ Bourbon Buttercream
Cupcake Quiches 

It’s not a complete brunch without a little bubbly.

meyer lemon + raspberries + champagne + blackberry juice

Above is what the table looked like as we finished.  Below was what the great outdoors looked like…a turbulent swirl of snow straight into eye level no matter where you walked.

So we went for a snowventure!

Look at the tree all the way on the left.  Notice a peaceful glimpse of wildlife?

From the grays and snow covered grass of Schenley Park, we snaked along curving, sloping roads to the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where bursts of color awaited.

We continued through the blue-gray, snowy blanket to the top of the [Pittsburgh] world- Mt Washington.

As the dark day transitioned to an even darker night, Erica and I returned to the warmth of my fireplace, sipped hot tea and confided in each other as if time had never escaped us. Little did we know how many similar experiences we’d been having.  As I attempted to relay the helpful advice another friend had given to me, I was reminded how truly fortunate I am to have strong, creative, intelligent, supportive friends in my life!  This Sunday brunch and snowventuring was just what Erica and I had both needed.  Never underestimate the power of an old friend, a dining room table, snowy views and cups of tea!

Bourbon Berries Between Bread (Cinnamon Pull Apart Loaf)

February 2012

College friends disperse.  High school friends fade.  Middle school friends were a flux at the mercy of fickle times!  Elementary school kids are distant memories of Ninja Turtle sweatsuits.  Toddlerhood and babyhood friends?  Those are usually just arranged “friendships,” but oddly enough, one of the girls from my toddler days has stayed in my life through all the forks in the friendship road.  When we come together, it’s as if we never have parted.

In my case, the little girl from the green house remained a friend long after we both left the neighborhood that brought us together.  A lot of time had escaped us since our last visit, so we planned a brunch to remedy the passing of time.  I’d spied this pull apart bread on Joy the Baker‘s bright, sunny side of the blogosphere.  A visit from a longtime friend was the perfect occasion to pull apart layers of freshly baked bread while reminiscing through the many layers of our friendship.

I like to fiddle with cinnamon roll fillings.  Since this bread is much like slicing through a cinnamon roll, my gears were turning.  What to discover between the cinnamony layers?  My minty green kitchen answered the question for me.  Aha!  Perched atop the shelf was a jar containing dried cranberries and cherries, soaking up a good ol’ dose of Wild Turkey Bourbon.  This friend of mine is a Southerner [in the making] after all!

Bourbon Between Bread
(Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread)

Makes: one 9x5x3-inch loaf

Bourbon Berries*
3/4 cup all natural, dried cranberries and dried cherries
Wild Turkey Bourbon

For the Bourbon Berries

Put the dried cranberries and cherries in a container with a lid, such as a mason jar. Add enough bourbon to cover the berries. Let soak until the berries have rehydrated and plumped. Reserve whatever liquid and berries remain after assembling the berry layer of the bread.

Dough Ingredients

2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 organic lemon, zested
1 Tablespoon freshly ground ginger

2 large eggs, at room temperature

4 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
1/3 cup organic whole milk

1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Wild Turkey

Filling Ingredients

Bourbon berries*
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure cocoa
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

For the Bread

In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lemon zest and ginger. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter, until butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add water, vanilla extract and whiskey. Let mixture stand for a minute or two to cool slightly.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.

Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.

Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be sticky.

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning. If using this method, let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.

While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa for the filling. Set aside.

Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned. Set aside.

Lightly grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and line with a sheet of parchment paper.

Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 Tablespoons of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long or thereabouts.

Use a pastry brush to spread browned butter across the dough. Sprinkle with all of the cinnamon mixture.

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.

Spread the bourbon berries over every other strip.

Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again (six stacks of six squares).

Squish the dough squares in the loaf pan.

Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well. If you have a lid for your loaf pan, it will help prevent the top from burning. You could also use tinfoil for most of the baking time.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Use the parchment paper to pull out the loaf and transfer to a plate.

Slice and serve with bourbon buttercream!

Berried Bourbon Buttercream


1 package of organic Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup bright yellow Irish butter, at room temperature
2-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
2-3 Tablespoons bourbon reserved from Bourbon Berries*


Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer or food processor to beat until smooth.

Dollop onto the pull apart bread!

Then go ahead and pull that bread apart!

Stay tuned for the rest of my brunch with my babyhood friend!

Header_I Like You

Valentine’s Day Observed: The Dinner With My Valentine!

February 2012

It was time to put all the Valentine’s Day plans onto one table, for one meal, with one special Valentine!

I washed off the beet stains [as best I could], dusted off the flour, crafted some skewers, set the table in a brand new way and somehow managed to shower and put on a dress before the designated dinner time. Our Valentine’s Day Observed was about to begin!

The Menu

Heart Beet Ravioli
Charcuterie Plate
Heirloom Wheat Bread 
Heart Beets Salad
Chocolate Hazelnut & Cherry Cakewich

Lots of wine!

Beets Are Red & Cheese Are Blue:  A Charcuterie Plate 

Danish Blue Cheese Hearts
Roasted Beet [Heart]
Speck & Honey Maple Ham
Fig Hearts
Cranberry Orange Chèvre

*The fig, blue cheese and raspberry combined best with a drizzle of honey on a slice of the heirloom wheat bread.

Heart Beets Salad

Roasted Red Beets
Blood Orange Segments
Honey Toasted Pecans
Fresh Mint
(play it be ear…or by heart… or by bad puns?)

Olive Oil
Dijon Mustard
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Maple Syrup
(mix to taste)

Remember I said “Lots of Wine?”  I wasn’t kidding!  We first gave a proper toast and a “sip”…

Then we gave proper attention to the food on the table.  We both really appreciate good food, and that shared interest means a lot to me!

Then we just acted weird because we do that a lot… (I guess the photo only makes me look a little weird, but don’t let him fool ya…look at that stare)!

The libations theme for the night was wine, but the theme for Valentine’s Day gift giving was Let’s Learn To Mix More!  I couldn’t resist throwing in a little Black Velvet and that cool southern style (via Canada), plus an infographic to teach us much, much, more mixology  I’m looking forward to a wee baby cocktail in one of those little chocolate cups.

There’s just one more element to this Valentine’s Day Observed series- a very special finale.

Stay tuned (and please excuse my handwriting… I had a lot going on)!

Valentine’s Day Observed: A Warm Heart[h] & The Smell of Fresh Bread

February 2012

I said it here, but I’ll say it again… I obsess over detail when it comes to making a special holiday dinner for a significant someone.  Whereas some see February 14th as a commercial holiday, I see it as an extra opportunity for thematic, sentimental expression coated in tones of my favorite hue.  I also see it as a flexible date when it falls on a weekday, hence… Valentine’s Day Observed.

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread and the extra warmth it brings to a kitchen.  With a charcuterie plate in the plans, I couldn’t have just any ol’ carboyhydrate holding up those meats and heart-shaped cheeses.  I had to make my own!  My good friend Erin brought me heirloom wheat flour as a souvenir from her trip to San Francisco.  Heirloom = extra love and care, so this bread recipe was clearly the right occasion for its use.  This method involves a pre-dough, meaning even more time than your average loaf, but the soft wheat texture is the ultimate payoff!

Heirloom Wheat Bread


1¾ cups (8 ounces) California heirloom wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water

For the Pre-Dough

Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator; it will be good for up to 3 days. Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill.)

♥ Dough

8 ounces (about 1⅔ cups) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup warm water
3 tablespoons warm heavy cream
1 packet active dry yeast
2½ Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 large egg (local/free-range)
extra flour or water for adjustments
egg wash: 1 tablespoon milk or 1 egg white or whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Himalaya Pink Sea Salt
Fresh ground pink peppercorns

♥ For the Bread

In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt.

Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs.

Cut the pre-dough into about 12 pieces and add them to the flour mixture, tossing the pieces to coat (to keep them from immediately sticking back together).

Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar and egg and stir with a rubber spatula until a dough forms.

Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.

Spray a bowl with nonstick spray; shape dough into a ball and place it in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.

Line a stone loaf pan with parchment paper.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Press the dough into a rectangle, just slightly longer than the bread pan. Fold in the longer sides toward the center. Fold in the shorter sides into the center. Pinch to seal the seam. Turn the dough, seam side down. Roll back and forth to further seal the seam and create surface tension.

Put the shaped loaf into the parchment lined loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Brush egg wash on buns and sprinkle with pink sea salt and pink pepper. Use a cookie cutter to cut a heart shape into the surface.

Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads at least 185 degrees, about 30-40 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Slice, serve and stay tuned for the other Valentine’s Day Observed menu breakdowns!


With The Grains