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Goofy St. Nik holiday breads

1 st nik and the guysIt’s beatnik Santa bread time. What started out two years ago as a wholesome gathering of friends just celebrating the German tradition of making St. Nicholas Day breads, has turned into an annual holiday doughboy mutiny.


While we appreciate the European custom of making Santa-shaped sweet breads that are gifted to children to pay tribute to the good deeds of Bishop Nicholas some 700 years ago, somehow the dough just takes on a life of its own. And the breads end up looking like mermaids, chickens, crazed angels and goofy children … no disrespect intended! They’re supposed to look sort of like this:

5 St nik

The real st nik

 But, you see, there are raisins and nuts and seeds that are meant to be used for buttons and such.

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Lazy overnight cheese bread

overnight cheese bread

I’m embarrassed about how easy it was to make this primitive-looking rustic cheddar/black pepper bread. I’m even more embarrassed about the method in which I’m going to share the not-recipe for it. My excuse is that I’m writing a book and I’m trying to learn to use InDesign in which to do it, so there’s a lot of cussing and freaking out/whining up here in my attic-office. But we needed bread for lunch.

pizza class girls

pizza class 11

On Sunday, I taught a fun group of high school seniors to make pizza and I put my demo dough in a bowl and refrigerated it (three days) until this morning at 8am. It was super bubbly and perky. And because I had to be in my office in 5 minutes so that I could begin my day of cursing and whining, I threw the dough on the wood counter, stretched it out, chunked about 6 oz. of Vermont cheddar and tossed that on top along with some coarse ground pepper. Then I folded the edges up and just rolled the wet (we’ll call it well-hydrated) dough and let it rise an hour. During which time I stuck this ceramic pot in a 450 degree oven. One hour later, the dough got dumped into the HOT pot and baked with the lid on for 20 minutes and then lid off at 425 for about 25 more minutes. And that’s it. 8am it’s dough in the fridge and 9:40 it’s bread.

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Rhubarb fig honey jam-spread on rye bread

Oh rhubarb fig jam-spread, please don’t leave me. There are only three of you and one of you is half gone now. I am already heartbroken. OK, I’m not THAT heartbroken because I have learned to make rye bread on which to spread you; and when you are gone, I will still have Rye.

As much as I’d actually like to take full credit for making these beautiful breads, I can’t. They were demo breads made by brilliant baker Jeffrey Hamelman  and all I did was shape them and slash them during a two day rye bread class I attended this weekend in Charlotte. However, I have a new pet rye starter that will produce many offspring in the years to come starting tomorrow.

Anyway, let’s pick some brown turkey figs for our jam. My fig tree is a monster this year. Figs are everywhere. In case your fig tree is full of little green nobby figs that might freeze before ripening, try this trick .

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International Biscuit Festival!

This pretty much sums it up. What a fun and inspiration-packed four days spent in Knoxville last week. First there was the Wednesday night Alton Brown show in the lavishly restored historic Tennessee theatre. He took us on a witty, sciency quest to re-create his grandmother’s southern biscuits. Then there was the first annual Southern Food Writer’s conference created by John Craig, Dawn Coppock and friends (John’s the Biscuit Boss/organizer of the Biscuit festival). What a truly talented collection of food writers, publishers, bloggers, journalists they collected for this event. I had the great pleasure of presenting a session with Jodi Rhoden about collecting recipes and old-time advice from the southern women in our lives. Then there was the (included with the conference, mind you) dinner at Blackberry farm. Over the top elegant/farmy…. how about a soup of poached trout swimming in a clear smoked local buttermilk broth topped with fresh-plucked watercress? Geez! Continue Reading →

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