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English Spice: A Search for Hot Cross Buns Update

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English spice: too bad I couldn’t just walk into a spice shop and buy some. I love a good spice shop. But rising rents and big corporations have driven them out. Penny candy, tackle for fishing where my grandfather Max used to take me, pickles, handmade jewelry, spices — I remember them all fondly. Exotic treasures, narrow aisles, creaking wooden floors, tinkling bells on the swinging doors. Knowledgeable proprietors. This is what I thought of when I received a comment from food historian Rachel Laudan recommending that I find English spice in response to my last post about my search for a great Hot Cross Buns recipe.

In addition to English spice mix, similar to pumpkin spice in this country, Rachel suggested that I find

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Masher

A China Cap and How to Use It

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This cooking tool is called a China Cap and it was my grandmother’s then my mother’s and now mine.  It is a wonderful tool, used to strain soups and such.  I frequently use it when I make chicken stock.  The pestle helps me press out every drop of liquid from the bones.  But really what this is great at is making a beautiful puree.

You can still buy these at restaurant supply shops.  It is not to be confused with a chinoise, which is more delicate and made of mesh. 

I have this tool for one reason.  That reason is The Red Soup.  And though so many people talk about their grandmother’s recipes, and it begins to get corny, I’m afraid I have to admit it:  yes, this came from my grandmother. 

She was a colorful character.

My grandmother was full of extremes She was rich.  She was poor.  She was abandoned by her mother.  She had an alcoholic father.  She had three husbands, all of whom died on her.  The first—my Irish grandfather—left her a 33 year old widow with nothing.  She got a factory job to support her two kids.  The second husband was an extremely wealthy Italian contractor with big political connections.  She wore mink coats and jewels, and traveled to places like pre-Casto Cuba. 

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Masher

Pastry Brush Update

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Laura and I often talk about how our interest in old recipes is about our passion for history and preservation and not about a false sentimentality or nostalgia for the past. With that in mind, we often find that some kitchen tools with modern improvements made to their designs just do a better job than old ones, however charming. I love my new

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Masher

Vintage Canisters in the Modern Kitchen

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Vintage canisters: Laura and I share a love of them. We don’t want the shiny new, reproduction ones however; we want the dinged-up, scratched and used ones with their gorgeous patina of age that really once sat in somebody’s 1930’s or 1940’s kitchen. One day when I was rhapsodizing about their cool retro colors and shapes, Laura asked me an interesting question. She said,

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Masher

Kitchen Library

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From time to time I like to share something wonderful that is non-food related on Jellypress, and A Book of Luminous Things is in that category. Nobel Prize winner and Professor Emeritus Czeslaw Milosz gathered poems from all over the world into this one volume, translated into English from various languages. One of my favorite poems in the book just happens to be about food and

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Masher

Jerusalem Artichokes

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Yesterday on one of my favorite blogs Ciao Chow Linda I read of her trip to Italy and a wonderful dish she ate with Jerusalem artichokes in it. These are small tubers that are actually not related to the big, fat green artichokes we see in supermarkets everywhere. I was lucky enough to taste Jerusalem artichokes when I was a pastry chef. The chefs I worked for loved them. They really are delicious and worth seeking out.

Linda mentioned in her story that she was curious where to get them in New Jersey and

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Masher

Broken Dishwasher

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“Should I have bought the more expensive brand?” I asked the repair man. 

It was the seventh visit in four months.

“Nah,” he replied.  “They’re all the same.  I fix them all; they all break. Everything is made of junk.  That’s why we’re in the trouble we’re in.”

Thank you.  I agree.  But what about my dishwasher?

I bought a Whirlpool last spring, and it breaks all the time.  Since October, I have been washing dishes by hand, most of the time. The machine is still under warranty, so rather than replace it, Whirlpool spends twice as much sending in repair men to fix it.  Constantly.  And each time, it breaks again.  Then we wait again another month for a part to come in. 

The machine is clearly a lemon and will never work.

Note: this post is about the second part of our subtitle at Jellypress:  “modern life.” My modern life as a freelance writer and mom means I work more hours than I care to admit in a day.  Dishes are adding more.  Plus a dishrack always on the counter taking space.  Plus a never-ending stack to be washed and another to put away.  I see my son head to the fridge.  “Do you really want that orange juice?” I know it’s another glass in the sink.  Frankly, I am starting to wonder if the Slow Food movement would ever have been born if there weren’t dishwashers.

So, while I’ve got my hands in the water, I have flashbacks to the the 1970s.  I can see the moment the first dishwasher arrived in our house. It was a huge deal.  And I fully understood because I’d been my mother’s dishwashing helper.

“It’s washing the dishes for us!” I declared like it was a miracle. 

“And not only that, I’m sitting here having a cup of coffee,” my mom said, pointing to her cup

Boy that would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Well, of course that’s not what she did with her extra hour each day.

Shortly after that dishwasher came, my mom got a job in town. That job led to another where she worked her way up from a secretary to a high-level manager, and got her bachelor’s degree on the side.  Then she became a vice president, and then consultant. Screw the cup of coffee. While the dishwasher hummed, mom was earning money and education.

One of the reasons why I write about old recipes is that there are good things in the past that should be remembered, used, celebrated.  But washing dishes definitely isn’t one of them.  Hooray for technology. 

Excuse me now, as I’ve got to go call Whirlpool again. 


Masher

Why I Love Cereal For Dinner Sometimes

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One summer when I was a mere youth of 29, I had the good fortune to live in Spain for a month, on the island of Formentera. Goats in the streets. The buzz of motor scooters rounding the dirt roads. No Starbucks. No Banana Republic. Just a big hot sun that set at ten at night, inky espresso and freshly baked fig cakes. It was there that I learned the very healthful European habit of

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Masher

How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day - Day 4

What we are adding to our chocolate croissant recipe today:

1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon of water, for egg wash (you can substitute water or milk.)

Our recipe for chocolate croissant appears in full at the end of this post, with a variation for plain, crescent-shaped croissant.



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Today’s the day we bake the chocolate croissant. What’s this about? Click here.

If you’d like to join us, begin with Day 1, then Day 2, and Day 3. Today, Valentine’s Day, Day 4, we are going to finish our recipe.

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Take the croissants out of the refrigerator where they have been having their last rise before baking. Let them sit out, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the temperature in your kitchen, until they warm a bit and rise a little more, as pictured above.

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Masher

How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day - Day 3

Today we will add the following ingredients to our chocolate croissant.

8 - 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 egg, for brushing dough
enough flour for rolling out dough

For a complete list of ingredients, click here.



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Welcome to day three of “How to Make Chocolate Croissant Without Taking An Entire Day.” Wondering what this is all about? Click the link in the box above this post, then click on Day 1 and Day 2 to get up to speed and join us if you like.

Take the croissant dough you refrigerated yesterday out of the fridge. It should look like the picture above, puffed up from its overnight rise. Unwrap it.

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Masher

How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day - Day 2

What we are adding to our recipe today:
3 sticks sweet unsalted butter, softened at room temperature to pliable consistency but still cool, not greasy (about 1/2 - 1 hour sitting out of refrigerator.)
3 T. all-purpose unbleached flour
more flour as needed for rolling dough

For a complete list of ingredients, click here.

Another reminder: For tomorrow, Saturday, February 13th, please also have one egg available for egg wash to seal the croissant. Alternatively, you can use water or milk.



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If you are just coming upon this post and want to join in making chocolate croissant with Nancy for Valentines Day, click here and then here to get up to speed, then return to follow today’s directions.

For the rest of you who have already been following these posts, welcome to day 2.

Above you see the three sticks of sweet unsalted butter that we are going to add to our recipe. I hope you remembered

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Masher

How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day - Day 1

The part of the recipe for chocolate croissant we’re using today:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 T. sugar
1 1/2 one-quarter-ounce-packages dry yeast (or 3 teaspoons plus f1/4 teaspoon, plus 1/8 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups whole milk

For a complete list of ingredients, click here.

One correction: For the third day of baking, Saturday, February 13th, please also have one egg available for egg wash to seal the croissant. Alternatively, you can substitute water or milk.



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We are ready to make chocolate croissant! What’s this about? Click here.

My sister, who is baking with us today, told me that she saw the film “It’s Complicated,” and that Meryl Streep makes chocolate croissant for Steve Martin in the movie. Her comment? “Yum!”

So let’s do it. If you really want to streamline this because you’re super-short on time, you can measure out your ingredients early in the morning (like before you go to work if you have a job) and then throw the dough together when you come home in the evening. Otherwise you can do both at the same time.

Put three cups of flour in a large mixing bowl, as pictured above. Here’s a tip

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Masher

In Praise of Nick Malgieri (Or How I Got My Favorite Chocolate Croissant Recipe)

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I am about to bake chocolate croissant with you here on Jellypress. (What’s this about? Click here.)

My recipe for chocolate croissant comes from my Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School binder. The school, founded in 1975 by Peter Kump, has a new name now, I.C.E. and a new space in Manhattan. All the recipes in my original binder are pastry chef Nick Malgieri’s, the former director of Kump’s, and all are fail-proof and delicious. I still treasure this binder and use it constantly, and I love Nick’s books. Above is a picture of his new Modern Baker. His Perfect Pastry is one of my bibles. If you’d like more information on Nick Malgieri and his great books, check out his website.

I met Nick when I was a lowly, lowly pastry acolyte at Kump’s and he was the director, then on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

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Masher

We Begin Baking Chocolate Croissant Tomorrow, Thursday, February 11

What’s this about? Click here.

I hope you have your ingredients by now, but if you don’t and want to join me to learn to bake chocolate croissant for Valentines Day, click the link above and get ready for tomorrow.



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Masher

No Knead Bread Craze

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A few weeks ago, my friend a Lou told me to come over to his house with a bowl.  I showed up with the bowl and my nine-year-old son.  He said to my son, “Can you say your name?” And of course Simon said yes.  “Then you can bake this bread,” Lou said.  He’d been trying to get me to bake bread for years, and I just never got to it.  “Laura, listen to me.  This is nothing.  Soon the bakeries are gonna go out of business.”

Of course I’d heard of the “no knead bread phenomenon,” and the article in the New York Times that spawned endless email. 

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A Thousand Years Over a Hot StoveA James Beard Award winning book that tells a history of American women through food, recipes, and remembrances. Recipes and illustrations from prehistory to the present day.
To learn more, click [here].


The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyLaura's memoir about a search for a recipe, happiness, and mythic Italy--with many unexpected adventures along the way.
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Walking on WalnutsIn this culinary memoir, Nancy Ring combines funny and poignant stories of love and work with warm remembrances of a family that celebrates food with gusto and cherishes memories with passion...
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