BBB AKA Big Beautiful Bread

Reader note:  I liked this bread so much that I decided to try it again and experiment a bit further with the ingredients.  The results were fantastic, and I’ll append the post below with the details.  This bread should be added to your baking to-do list.  There is a saying they have in Singapore — “die die must try”.  This is that bread.

If you’ve followed along on the blog, you might recall a recent post about my go-to bread — Sheryl’s Harvest Grains Loaf.  I find this to be a reliable recipe for when time is short and I want a healthful whole grain bread.  You can find the recipe here.  Last week I thought I would take a look at the King Arthur website for additional recipes that I could try which use the harvest grains blend.

I happened across this recipe for A Simple, Rustic Loaf (it’s a winner with a five-star rating) and thought I’d give it a try.  This recipe baked up as a huge crispy crusted loaf with a delicate interior — this bread is very different from my go-to loaf in a few very important ways.

  • First, this loaf needs much more time as it uses the sponge method.  I prepared the sponge and let it sit at room temperature overnight which enabled fantastic flavor development.  The small amount of rye flour also contributes to the flavor.  In addition to the fermentation time, this bread needs extra time for a second rise.
  • Second, this bread uses a smaller amount of the harvest grains mixture relative to the flour, and there is no whole wheat flour so the texture is much lighter.
  • Finally, this bread has no sweetener or oil added.

I followed the recipe as written with three changes.  First, I add vital wheat gluten whenever my recipe uses whole grains or a seed mixture like the harvest grains blend.  For this recipe, I added 2 tablespoons.  Second, I did not have pumpernickel flour and used rye flour instead.  img_0142Finally, I baked the recipe using my La Cloche baker which you can read more about here.  The La Cloche ensures a fantastic crisp crust.  To use this recipe with the La Cloche, you will want to pre-heat the oven with the dome inside at 450° for an hour before baking.  If your oven is like mine, you will want to remove the upper rack before you begin the pre-heating and create more space to accommodate the La Cloche.  I also pre-heated my baking stone on the rack where I will place the baker.  When you’re ready, pop the bread in the oven (the bottom of the baker goes on top of the hot stone) and carefully put the very hot dome on top.  Bake at 450° for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 400° for 15 minutes.  Finally, remove the dome and bake for 5 more minutes for a total baking time of 35 minutes.  By the way, there is no need with the La Cloche to spray the bread with water or use a pan of ice cubes to create steam.  As you can see below, I had great oven spring and ended up with a loaf that was so big, I couldn’t fit it into my bread keeper without cutting it in half.

 

This was a really happy experiment, and I’m sure this big beautiful bread will become a regular in my repertoire.  Don’t fret if you don’t have the Harvest Grains blend.  As much as I love it, I know how it is when you are out of an ingredient and need to substitute.  There are plenty of ideas for how to improvise if you look through the reviews on the recipe page.  Let me know if you try this one, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Experimentation Update

As mentioned above, I made this bread a second time.  This time I decided to make a change to the amount of all-purpose flour used in the dough.  Instead of 9-1/2 ounces, I used 7 and then added 2-1/2 ounces of King Arthur’s Ancient Grains blend.  This whole grain flour is a blend that includes 30% each amaranth, millet, and sorghum flours and 10% quinoa flour.  I honestly had not gotten a lot of use out of this flour and needed to try and use it up which led to this experiment.  The resulting bread had a slightly earthy but complex flavor that was indescribably delicious.  Be sure to add the vital wheat gluten as I describe above.  This dough rose really quickly creating another BBB — the first rise only took 50 minutes.

Tropical Floral Favorites from the Princeville Botanical Gardens

Pink tropical flower
Not sure what this is, although it reminds me of a hyacinth just a little. If you know what this lovely is, let me know 🙂

 

 

 

tropical pink and orange flowers
I’m not certain what these are, although they remind me of shrimp flowers
Closeup of a torch ginger lily
This beautiful bloom is a Torch Ginger Lily
Malaysian White Bat Flower
This is a rare Malaysian White Bat Flower

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers May 2017

 

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Photo of Strasbourg, Alsace regional capital, and capital of the European Union

Here is a bit of trivia for you.  Our April baking project was for an Alsatian Onion Pizza.  If you’re not familiar with this charming region in the North East corner of France, it sits near the intersection of France, Switzerland, and Germany.  The region is historic in that it is home to the greatest number of feudal castles in Europe — 400 of these castles in various states of ruin have been discovered.  The area also has a very rich wine heritage which includes Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat.  The local wines are enchanting, and that view is supported by famed fashion designer Christian Dior.

 

“A small glass of Alsace wine is like a summer dress or a spring flower; it’s a ray of sunshine that makes life brighter.”

Christian Dior

The area also has a rich gastronomic legacy which includes of all things Munster cheese. While I’ve not visited Alsace, I considered this recipe as a virtual afternoon trip to the region.  Note that as I searched a bit on the internet for similar recipes, most included bacon, which would honestly make a great addition.  Rose uses black olives instead in her recipe which you can find here along with her other variations.

The foundation of any pizza is, of course, the crust.  Rose offers up the recipe for her Perfect Pizza Dough along with an assortment of topping recipes and combinations.  While this one would not have likely been my first pick as I scanned through the choices, it was certainly enjoyable.  It also provided me with inspiration for a breakfast pizza.  I’ll be sure to update this post once I have the chance to test out that idea.

Rose recommends using King Arthur’s Italian Style flour which I just happened to have on hand.  I had not baked with this flour before, and don’t yet have an opinion on this one.  Here’s why.  The first recommendation that Rose makes is that you prepare the dough in advance and allow it to mature over a period of eight to 24-hours.  I had been busy with another loaf of my fave hearth bread and did not start the dough until just a few hours ahead of time.  In addition, I mixed the olive oil into the dough in error instead of just putting it inside the container with the dough while it was fermenting.  I’ll admit I was distracted by the loaf of bread that I had in process.

Another important timing note for this recipe is that the onions take a really long time to cook.  You start by smothering them over low heat for 45 minutes.  Then you crank up the heat to caramelize and dry them out.  I did not time this, but it took a little while.  I’d also note that to thinly slice three large onions, you really want to use a food processor  I started with my mandoline, but after slicing about 3/4 of an onion I moved on to the food processor.

Bless her heart, Rose gives us permission to be experimental and somewhat liberal with the amounts of topping ingredients since everybody wants to maximize their favorite ingredients.  For me, this meant extra gruyére cheese and olives.

1827_07_10_2012__17_13_40_700This recipe was a great opportunity to give my new baking stone a workout.  My old stone had cracked into three big pieces after many years of loyal service, so I ended up with this hot red number from Emile Henry.  I loved baking with this stone for a few reasons.  First, it has a glazed surface which is much easier to keep clean than the unglazed stone I had before.  Second, it is rectangular instead of square so it works better (at least I think it does) on a rectangular oven rack.  Third, and perhaps most important is safety.  This stone has handles built into the sides so I can move it safely, even while it’s hot.  I, unfortunately, have a tendency to  have the stone on the wrong rack and need to move it when the oven is already hot.

In terms of baking technique, you’re directed to pre-bake or blind bake the crust for 5 minutes.  The intent is to prevent the crust from becoming soggy, but honestly, that did not work so well.  I thought I had gotten all of the excess liquid out of the onion topping so when I make my breakfast pizza I will need to adjust the pre-bake and the topping to keep the crust crisp.

The Alsatian onion topping is delicious, however, I would suggest leaving out the added sugar.  I suspect it would be plenty sweet without it.  Despite the problems of my own making that I’ve noted, I will give this pizza dough another chance with extra care to follow the directions as written.  I have historically used a pizza dough recipe from Joanne Weir with good results, so I’m not sure that I would replace that with this one.  I’ve been craving a nice crispy, airy crust like the one I had here at Rays and Stark Bar here in LA.  I haven’t found a dupe for that one yet, but if you have any suggestions, I’m open to them.  I’m sure one change I will need to make is to bake directly on the stone.  I expect that to be much easier with my new stone.

Are you baking your own pizzas at home?  Of course I’d love to hear your favorites since I love pizza.  One of my favorites is a Turkish Lamb pizza from Joanne Weir that I learned in one of her classes.  I’ll link to it here.

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers April 2017

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Our Bread Bible Bakers project for the month of March was originally Walnut Fougasse.  I honestly did bake the recipe in March but must admit that I was really very disappointed in the outcome and delayed writing the post for a full month.  I was really lacking in enthusiasm about this one, and waited another month to edit the post — definitely not like me.  I had never had a fougasse before, so as a result of my profound disappointment in this recipe I sought out another fougasse recipe which I baked for comparison.  I had intended to try this one again but just never got up enough enthusiasm to try it again until tonight.

So what was wrong with this bread recipe the first time around?  I found the dough to be very tough or dense and very difficult to work with.  In fact, the dough was so tough that the whole process of kneading in the walnuts by hand was a challenge, and kneading in additional oil after the dough had risen was a mess.  This was so bad that I found myself checking Rose’s website for possible errata to explain this.  The only unusual ingredient was the scalded milk which should not have caused a problem.  I just don’t know what happened here, the flavor of the bread was OK, but the texture and appearance really weren’t very good.

The next day I did a bit of research on fougasse and found a number of recipes.  None of them used as much oil, and none had you knead it in during the rising process.  None of them used milk as the liquid either.  I ended up with a very delightful bread based on this Fougasse recipe with olives and herbs from Saveur magazine.  I was a bit jaded from my experience with the Walnut Fougasse so I cut the recipe by 2/3 to make a single loaf just in case it didn’t turn out well, but as I said it was delightful.

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Fougasse with kalamata olives and herbs

Fast forward to today, as I finally sat down to write this post.  I decided to give this one another try as I wanted to just double check the measurements.  Once I measured the flour I decided to go ahead and bake this one again.  I typically use my kitchen scale for measuring ingredients like flour, and the first time around I measured 1 imperial pound as the recipe called for.  This time I measured using the dip and sweep method, as well as using both imperial and metric measurements with my scale to check accuracy.  I got the same result with all three methods which as Martha Stewart would say is a good thing.

Next, I scalded some milk since it needed time to cool.  I even went to the trouble of looking for advice on scalding milk which I found here on allrecipes.com.  Nothing earth shattering here, although they specifically advised to let the milk cool to 110°.  I dutifully did so using my instant read thermometer (it was actually down to 95° by the time I was ready to mix).  I did not check the temperature the last time so don’t know if this was a factor or not.

This second batch of dough was still dense, but after letting it rest for 15 minutes I did manage to knead in the walnuts by hand.  Although my walnuts were pre-chopped I did chop them even more based on my experience last time.  I do think having them chopped pretty small is key to kneading them in successfully.  Kneading in the first tablespoon of oil was OK, but I found myself having the same fundamental concerns about this recipe as I did the first time.  It is really hard to get a nice smooth dough with this recipe and approach.  Although the finished texture the second time seemed to be a little better, this recipe is still a no go in my book.  It is such a no go, that I was pretty unmotivated on photos for this post as well as the writing.  This is the first and only failure I’ve experienced with The Bread Bible.  After baking this one twice, I’d say to this recipe “hey, it’s not me, it’s you.”

I’d love to hear from others who have made this recipe with success or who have tips that might help.

Sheryl’s Harvest Grains Loaf

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I do love to bake bread (I like to eat it too!).  As much as I love freshly baked bread some recipes take more time and effort than others.  Since I don’t have unlimited time for baking, I’ve had to search for a bread recipe which meets the following criteria:

  • Quick to make with only one rise
  • Improved nutritional value from whole grains without being dense or bitter
  • Additional taste, texture, and nutrition from seeds and grains
  • Freezes well so I can have some on hand without having to bake

 

This loaf makes great grilled ham and cheese sandwiches

The recipe that I am sharing in this post meets all of these requirements and has become my go-to quick and easy loaf.  This one is great for sandwiches (grilled ham and cheese anyone?) or toast.  In addition to baking it for my personal consumption, I often like to take along a baked offering when visiting friends or family.  One of my uncles raves about this bread, so I try to make it whenever I know I’ll see him.

I originally found the recipe for Michelle’s Harvest Grains Loaf a couple of years ago.  The recipe was originally written for a bread machine, so I have adapted the technique for my KitchenAid stand mixer and made a couple of tweaks based on my learnings from baking with Rose’s Bread Bible over the years.  I’ve also made a few modifications to the ingredients.  The most significant one is the addition of vital wheat gluten which enables me to achieve the light texture I wanted even though the recipe uses whole grains and seeds.  I use the Bob’s Red Mill product because it does the job and is readily available at my local supermarket or at Whole Foods.

The hero ingredient in this recipe is the harvest grains blend.  I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else.  It is super tasty and filled with goodies like poppy seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and oats.  I was absolutely heartbroken last year when I accidentally ended up with almost a whole two-pound bag worth of the mix on my kitchen floor.  Apparently, the lid on the canister wasn’t on securely, I didn’t have a firm grip, and the rest is history.  I had to turn around and immediately reorder, but fortunately, there was a reduced price shipping deal at the time.  The grain blend is really important to the success of this recipe so I recommend ordering it just for this recipe, although there are several other recipes on the King Arthur site you can try in order to get more use out of the product.  One other recipe I’ve used it in with good success is for Harvest Grain Buns (dinner rolls) which were a hit on our Thanksgiving table.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Harvest Grains Blend
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or White Whole Wheat (I normally use the white whole wheat, but the regular works fine too)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast — I use the SAF Red Instant from King Arthur
  • 2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten

Instructions

  1. In the workbowl of your electric stand mixer, i.e. a KitchenAid combine all of the dry ingredients, except the salt by hand to distribute the ingredients.  With the machine on low speed, pour in the water, oil, and sweetener until a rough dough forms.
  2. Cover the workbowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
  3. After the dough has rested, add the salt and knead the dough by machine on medium-high for 7 minutes.  You should now have a smooth supple dough like the image below.
  4. Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan.
  5. Shape the dough into a log and place it in the pan.
  6. Allow the loaf to rise, covered, until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan.  In my experience, with the yeast specified above, I  typically am ready to bake within 45 minutes.  I forgot to set my timer, so the results shown here were after a 60-minute rise.
  7. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the bread’s interior temperature registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan, and cool it on a wire rack.
  10. Store, well-wrapped, for 5 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Things to do in Bangkok: Find Design Inspiration at Two Historic Thai House Museums

Introduction to the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home

Most Bangkok visitors are familiar with the legend of Jim Thompson and make it a point to visit the Jim Thompson House and Museum — it should not be missed, and I will share my impressions on the house later in this post.  There is, however, a new arrival on the house museum scene that is also worthy of your time if you can work it into your schedule.  That new entrant is the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home.  Opened to the public in late 2015, the home was originally constructed in 1915 and occupied by three generations of the Lert family.  The home is open for public tours, however calling ahead for hours and to reserve a tour is necessary.  In addition, the house can be booked for weddings and special events.  In fact, if you look on Instagram for photos tagged with the home’s location you will find many beautiful wedding and event photos.

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A bit of #shelfie inspiration from Ma Maison

One other thing should be mentioned before we talk specifically about the Lert family home.  The home sits on a good sized lot which includes a public park, a museum store, and two restaurants.  We decided to hang around after our tour to await the opening of the Ma Maison restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant is intimate with an abundance of orchids on display and wonderfully crammed full display shelves for your #shelfie inspiration.  The prices are reasonable, and the restaurant appears to cater to locals who are “in the know”.  The food was good, as was the service, however, we did have some communication challenges due to language.  I would still recommend dinner there if it fits with your plans.

 

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Exterior view of the Nai Lert Park Heritage House

Now back to the house.  The home’s architecture is traditional Thai, which for starters in very practical terms means that the home is elevated, consisting of two separate buildings joined by a common walkway.  Incidentally, one of the two buildings was destroyed by a bomb in World War II and rebuilt.  The crater from the bomb is now a beautiful lotus pond.  The main living area is reached by an exterior staircase and surrounded by a veranda that is protected from the elements by a wide overhang.

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To fully appreciate and understand this home and it’s contents, we must first ask “who was Nai Lert?”  The answer to that question is vital.  Lert was named Phraya Bhakdinorasresth, meaning “beloved millionaire” by King Rama VI in 1925.  You can think of Lert as a prominent, early industrialist in Thailand. Well known for his many innovations and contributions to Thai society, for example, Lert was the first to import cars from Europe, as well as starting the first public bus service in Bangkok.  The Lert influence extended to other family members as the first female Thai cabinet member was Thanphuying Lursakdi, Lert’s daughter and sole heir who served as Thailand’s Minister of transportation.

 

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Section from a large wall hanging in the Nai Lert Park Heritage House

The Lert family lovingly restored the 100-year-old home and opened it to the public just over a year ago, keeping many of the family heirlooms and furnishings intact and on display for your enjoyment.  The collections include furniture, porcelains, a collection of antique walking sticks, and even a stand-in for Thanphuying Lursakdi’s beloved dog

 

The Jim Thompson Legacy

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Depending on the length of your stay in Bangkok and which days of the week you are there, you may not be able to visit the Nai Lert Park Heritage House, however, the Jim Thompson House and Museum, as shown in the image above is very accessible as it is open daily.  Do call, however, to verify hours.  Opened to the public as a museum after Thompson was legally declared dead back in the seventies, the Thompson House is a “must see” venue for art and design lovers.  Although both of these locations feature traditional Thai architecture, there are a number of important differences.  In addition, the Thompson House has one of the best collections of South East Asian art in the world.  Thompson describes the objective for his collecting activity as follows:

I have tried to build up as fine a collection as I can to leave to this country. I know that the museum does not have funds to buy many of the fine pieces that turn up, and rather than see them leave the country, I have tried to buy the really exceptional ones to keep them here. I have paid very high prices for many of them, but I know that if I did not, they might have gone for good. I hope that you will believe that I am deeply interested in the archaeology and preservation of the beautiful things of this country, and I am not making a collection for financial advantages or selfish purposes.

Before we explore a few of the architectural differences between the two homes, it is important to understand a bit of the Thompson legend and how the home came to be.  The story of Jim Thompson, his life as an ex-pat in Thailand, and his mysterious disappearance in Malaysia is actually a great read.  In fact, Thompson disappeared on Easter Sunday 50 years ago.   As I write this post what happened to him remains a great mystery.  To read more specifically about Thompson’s life and disappearance beyond the brief synopsis I’ll provide, the book titled Jim Thompson:  The Unsolved Mystery by William Warren is a great resource.  I was able to get a copy from my local library, but it is still available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

51uZnN6AdULSince photography is not allowed in the Thompson house you may also want to consider the book Jim Thompson:  The House on the Klong.  Note that there are two versions — a 2007 version and a 2015 version with a slightly reworded title.  You can find both on Amazon (or at the museum if you’re willing to carry it home), and either would make a lovely reference or coffee table book.  In addition to images from the home’s interior like the one on the book’s cover, the book also has reference information on Thai art and on the antique Chinese porcelain in the house.  The porcelain information is also relevant to the collection at the Nai Lert Heritage House.

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Jim Thompson in his home office, image from Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery

Jim Thompson was born in 1906 in Greenville, Delaware.  After graduating from Princeton, he spent nine years working as an architect in New York City where based upon his interest in the ballet he became a director of the Monte Carlo Ballet company which was a forerunner of the NYC ballet.  During his time with the ballet company, he developed an appreciation of costume and set design which would help distinguish him in his future career endeavors.  In yet another career switch, as America entered WW II Thompson quit his job and enlisted in the Delaware National Guard.  He would later join a new military organization that specialized in clandestine missions known at the time as the Office of Strategic Services — that organization is now known as the Central Intelligence Agency (you know, the one on Homeland) or CIA.  It was while on assignment with the OSS that he was deployed to Thailand, and he ultimately made Thailand his home.

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A recent fashion ad campaign for Gucci featuring Tom Hiddleston.  Source:  Jim Thompson Fabrics Instagram

Thompson really was a master of reinvention and embarked upon his fourth adult career.  Upon permanently settling in Thailand after a divorce, Thompson became interested in the Thai silk industry.  This was an industry that really wasn’t doing well based on the introduction of cheaper machine-made textiles.  Many of the families that had historically woven fabric in their homes were moving into other endeavors to make a living.  These lustrous silk fabrics reminded him of those found in the ballet costumes, and he ultimately packed a bag of samples which he brought to New York where he met with the editors of Vogue and Vanity Fair.  Indeed, while Thompson’s silks are well known to the interior design trade, they initially were picked up by fashion designers.  By the way, another Thompson connection was with Thailand’s Queen Sirikit.  Thompson and Thailand’s silk industry received greater visibility as these fabrics were used in a wardrobe designed for the Queen by Pierre Balmain.  To read more about these beautiful fashions and how you can see them, click here.

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A gorgeous contemporary interior designed by Christopher Kennedy Inc. featuring Jim Thompson Fabrics via Instagram

Jim Thompson brought a number of key skills to bear which fueled the revival of the Thai silk industry and the establishment of the business which lives on today.  He was an enthusiastic proponent of Thai silk and his enthusiasm for the product really translated into sales results and penetration of the US and European export markets.  Thompson also introduced chemical dyes to the industry and played a significant role in developing color ways or color combinations.

As the business became more successful, Thompson became an avid collector of Thai antiquities.  At the time, there wasn’t much of a preservation effort in Thailand, so the fact that Thompson collected so much for his home and left it all in his will to found a museum means that there is a substantial collection that has been preserved for our enjoyment.

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Perfect for entertaining, the dining room features antique furnishings and beautiful teak surfaces

In the early sixties when Jim Thompson designed and constructed his Bangkok home he purchased six individual buildings which were disassembled and moved by canal or klong to his home site.  These buildings were historic in that some dated back to the 19th century.  It is important to note that traditional Thai architecture utilizes what I would characterize as “prefab” movable architecture.  This means that a family could build a home, and later disassemble the home so that it could be moved to a new site.  This was also desirable since as the family’s needs expanded, additional buildings could be constructed and connected to the original home.  Another reason that had cultural importance is it’s not common for Thai people to buy homes on the resale market that were owned by other families due to their Buddhist beliefs.  Having spirits (especially negative ones) from other families around is not at all desirable, and great care is taken to provide a spirit house to keep the ancestral spirits happy.  The Lert home provides another example of these multiple buildings which were joined together by common walkways.

Architecturally speaking, raised thresholds are a common Thai design feature and serve as a way to literally trip up evil spirits.  Note that at the time Thompson designed and built his home, prosperous Thai families were more interested in modern Western architectural styles, especially in urban areas like Bangkok.  This house did have some Western elements as well as design elements which were specific to Thompson’s requirements.  For example, Thompson preferred an interior staircase, and you can see that specific difference in the photos above.  Also, the walkways which connect the six buildings are all on the interior like you would see in a Western home.  Modern conveniences like air conditioning (in the office area only) and Western style bathrooms are also included.  You’ll also notice in the image above the red exterior paint which I understand was popularized by Thompson.

The on-site landscaping (examples below) is every bit as important as the architecture.  The grounds are filled with an abundance of tropical plant life and outdoor art.  Thompson entertained regularly, and it wasn’t uncommon for American and European celebrities or dignitaries to be entertained by Thompson.  All who visited were wowed by both the house and its landscaping.  There was plenty of entertainment in the house over the years initiated by a housewarming party that featured a performance by a Thai dance company.

I hope that you’ve found this post both entertaining and useful.  If you have already visited or are visiting Bangkok in the near future, I’d love to hear what you think of these museums.  If you know someone who will be going, please share this post.

Finding My “Juice-spiration”

After spending time this past Saturday at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, I was inspired to get back to making my own fresh juices at home.  My Omega juicer has been sitting in the cabinet collecting dust for a while despite my love of fresh juice.  At $8 to $9 for a 16-ounce bottle at one of the local juice shops here in L.A., making my own juice is a budget friendly option with added freshness and choice of ingredients as additional benefits.

My maternal grandmother was a woman way ahead of her time when it comes to the juicing craze.  The U.S. juice market today has been estimated to be $5B per year and growing.  If my Nana were still with us, she would be celebrating her 104th birthday next month.  Way back in the day, I think some family members thought she had lost her mind because she purchased a Jack LaLanne juicer.  I think this was back in the 70s, and while I don’t know what it cost back then, my understanding was that it was a relatively expensive item, the benefits of which hadn’t achieved mainstream acceptance yet.  The Jack LaLanne juicers are still available today (you can see them on Amazon) and look pretty much the same except the older models probably had more metal parts instead of plastic.

For those who aren’t familiar with LaLanne, he was a TV personality and fitness guru who was well known here in the U.S.  He remained incredibly fit throughout his life and passed away in 2011 at the ripe old age of 96.  My grandmother used that juicer primarily to make carrot juice, and when she passed away and I inherited that juicer the one juice in my repertoire was — you guessed it, carrot juice.

I used that old Jack LaLanne juicer until it gave out, and have bought two juicers since then.  My current juicer is the Omega VRT 350 which is categorized as a slow-masticating juicer.  Some of the advantages when compared with centrifugal machines like the Jack LaLanne model include:

  • Less heat production preserving more of the natural enzymes in the juice
  • Reduced risk of oxidation due to slower operating speed
  • Delivers 35% more juice and maintains up to 65% more of the nutrients

The bullet points above are from a book titled The Juice Solution by Erin Quon and Briana Stockton.  When I bought juicer number two, I decided that I needed to expand my juicing horizons.  This is one of the books on juicing I’ve sought out for recipes and inspiration, but my first love and favorite go-to resource remains The Big Book of Juices: More Than 400 Natural Blends for Health and Vitality Every Day by Natalie Savona.  While the names of her juices are kinda goofy, she offers a broad range (405 to be exact) of fruit and vegetable juice recipes, as well as recipes for smoothies and quenchers.  I love this book so much I’ve also bought it as a gift for family members with an interest in juicing.

The juice featured in this post is Savona’s Gut Soother.  This juice features a blend of pears, carrots, pineapple and ginger root.  It is rich in beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamin C to name a few of the key nutrients.

Once I washed and cut my produce, feeding it into the juicer was fairly quick and easy — the final results were delicious.

In addition to the Big Book of Juices and The Juice Solution, I would mention a beautiful juicing book by Julie Morris titled Superfood Juices.  The downside of this book is that the recipes often feature ingredients that are harder to come by.  My task is to pick a few recipes with more accessible ingredients and give them a whirl.

Where are you finding your juice-spiration, and what are your favorite combinations?

 

Pie For Dinner — Another Way to Achieve My #piegoals?

As I was thinking about my blogging schedule, I was very aware that I’m overdue for a #piegoals update.  The significance of this fact is that it was high time for me to get in the kitchen and do the work needed to make progress towards my goals.  As much as I love pie,   baking a dessert pie on a regular basis can be damaging to one’s waistline as I addressed in a prior post.  You can read all about how I minimized the damage here.  That said, I need to work on my skills so baking full-size pies is a necessity.  One idea for how to do this was to bake a pot pie for dinner, so I’ll share more on that experience as well as a quick tool and book review.

Dexas dough cutter with fluted wheel

First, in preparation for a year of pie baking, I invested in a couple of new tools that I put to work as I prepared my first pie of the new year.  A relatively inexpensive tool which worked nicely is the Dexas Dough Prep Set which I picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond for $14.99.  The set includes a handle and four interchangeable plastic blades which can be used for pastry, pies, and pizza.  I used the fluted wheel to trim the edges of my dough once I rolled it out.  It was very easy to change out the wheel and to use it.  Also, the handle was very comfortable in my hand.  This wheel enabled me to quickly and easily cut attractive, even fluted edges.  Previously I had just been cutting my edges with a knife, and they were not all that neat or attractive.  The second new tool I used is an Emile Henry square baker which I fell in love with while shopping at Williams-Sonoma.  I’ll share more about how this worked out later in the post.

With that bit of background, after discovering the ability to borrow e-books from my local library, I decided to check out a book titled Dinner Pies: From Shepherd’s Pies and Pot Pies to Tarts, Turnovers, Quiches, Hand Pies, and More, with 100 Delectable and Foolproof Recipes by Ken Haedrich.  This book appealed to me as I liked the idea of a savory winter pie given our recent cold (by LA standards) rainy weather.

After reading the introductory chapters, I browsed the various pie recipes on a cold wet afternoon and decided upon the Shrimp Pot Pie.  The recipe was for a single crust pie, with the author’s intent being that you would make individual pot pies.  I decided against this as I did not have deep enough individual pans, and I only had two of them.  The recipe called for Haedrich’s Go-to Pie Crust which uses a combination of shortening and butter with a touch of vinegar to ensure flakiness.  One of the things I really liked about the crust recipe is that the author encourages using a food processor to make the crust, and provides very good instructions for doing so.  The recipe for this crust is provided on the Amazon page that I linked to above and I would say that this is a good all around pie crust recipe.

The recipe for the pie filling was simple, but honestly, this is an area where I experienced a bit of disappointment.  The combination of shrimp and vegetables was good — the problem was the sauce which called for a combination of heavy cream and half and half.  The only seasoning for the sauce was a bit of parsley, pimenton, thyme, salt, and pepper.  As a result, the sauce was really rich but also very bland.  To create more flavor, I added a bit of lobster flavored Better than Bouillon from my refrigerator which really helped.  In retrospect, a reduction with a stock perhaps made from the shrimp shells and less of the heavy dairy might have provided a better result.  I know the author’s intent was to keep things simple, but why not have flavor and fewer calories?

The finished filling, ready to be topped with crust

After adjusting the flavor of the sauce, I followed the directions to allow the filling to cool in the hopes of keeping the sauce from boiling over or reducing too much while baking.  Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work very well for me.  As you can see in the finished photos, after baking a great deal of the sauce escaped and pooled atop the crust.  I suspect that with a two crust pie the sealed edges would have minimized this problem.

Pot pie is ready to go in the oven

I did attempt to get cute with the top of the pie and made some fish cut-outs for decoration.  I cut these out freehand as I did not have fish-shaped cookie cutters.  In retrospect, I should have applied the eggwash before putting on my fish decorations.

In the end, while the recipe ended up fine in the taste department, it was disappointing in overall appearance.  My biggest problem was the sauce pool on top.  It may have been helpful to use a pan that was not quite as deep as my pretty new Emile Henry baker, and to try and seal the edges of the crust tightly against the side of the pan.  To do that, I should have cut my crust larger.

By the way, after baking the pot pie I had some dough leftover so I decided to use it to make some turkey chorizo empanadas which were quite yummy.  The turkey chorizo was made in house by my local market.  I briefly sauteed about a half cup each of chopped onion and red bell pepper then added to the pan 1/2 pound of turkey chorizo breaking it up as it cooked.  Because the meat was already heavily spiced, I just added a bit of salt to taste.  I let that cool for a few minutes before stuffing the dough.  Then I sealed the edges with a fork, pricked the tops and brushed them with the leftover eggwash.  I then baked them in a pre-heated 350° F oven for 30 minutes until nicely browned.

My verdict on this cookbook is still out, but I plan to try a few more recipes before it’s time to return it.  There were several vegetable based pies of interest and one on Haedrich’s website for a Collard Tart au Gratin that I really want to try as I love collard greens.

I hope to provide my next update sooner, and in the meantime would love to hear any suggestions for pie recipes to try or technique suggestions.

 

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers February 2017

This month our baking group is cooking up a healthy Flaxseed Loaf, which in my opinion makes a great everyday sandwich type bread. If you’re looking for a bread that incorporates whole grains, is rich in antioxidants as well as healthful Omega 3 fatty acids this bread may be just what you’re looking for. Here is an interesting tidbit from the World’s Healthiest Foods website:

Interestingly, bread enriched with ground flaxseed has also been shown to have a greater antioxidant capacity and a much lower glycemic index value (of approximately 51) than the same bread without the ground flaxseed addition. These research findings are great news for anyone who wants to include flaxseeds in baked dishes, in either whole or ground form.

This bread is one that I’ve made in the past – in fact I had notated some changes that I’d made to the recipe back in 2008. I pretty much stuck with those very minor changes this time around and will describe them for you below. One of the things that I loved about this bread is that it is relatively quick and easy to make, has a mellow flavor, and it bakes up with a really nice crust.

I can’t copy the recipe here, and it is not one that Rose has published anywhere other than the book, or if she has, I can’t find it. If you’re interested, however, see my “duh” moment below for a way to borrow the book if you want to try it out. I can assure you that you will learn so much about baking bread and enjoy so many of the recipes that you’ll not be disappointed if you buy the book.  Whether you borrow or buy, this book is really helpful when it comes to baking bread.

 

Dry ingredients, including the flaxseed ready for mixing

 

The recipe calls for a combination of three flours – all-purpose, whole wheat, and pumpernickel. In many recipes which call for whole wheat flour, I substitute an equivalent amount of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour. If you look back at prior posts, you’ll see that I have used this flour in a number of recipes – Irish Soda Bread, Everyday Whole-grain Bread, and Pumpkin, Oat, and Date Muffins are three examples I’ve written about on the blog. You’ll get all of the benefits of whole wheat, but with a milder taste and texture so you’re able to sneak it into baked goods if you’re looking to up the whole-grain content.

I really have to be careful about how much flour and other dry goods that I buy and keep on hand. If I overdo it and don’t use it up quickly enough I end up with a variety of pantry pests. Keeping my dry goods in the freezer isn’t an option due to space limitations. I’ve invested in a fairly large selection of airtight Oxo POP containers, use traps faithfully, and can still end up with problems. For that reason, I did not want to invest in a bag of pumpernickel flour which is a more coarsely ground flour than the rye we used in our December recipe, Levy’s Real Jewish Rye. Therefore I replaced the pumpernickel flour with the Arrowhead Mills rye I had on-hand which made for a lighter, but equally tasty bread.

By the way, the one change I did not make this time around, but it is an option is to add one ounce of wheat germ and increase the water by one ounce. The idea here was to further increase the whole grain content, but since I didn’t have any wheat germ on hand I skipped over that. If you happen to have some on hand, however, it is a good addition.

Flaxseeds after a quick go round in the Vitamix

The required flaxseeds can be easily cracked or ground in a spice grinder (I have an old Cuisinart that is just large enough) or now I run them through my Vitamix using the Dry Grains Container. This container is great for making your own flour – think about the oat or chickpea flours, or superfine sugar that you can produce at home as you need it — saving your valuable time and preventing waste. The container is a pricey item (it has a special blade built into it) so you’ll want to shop around for the best price.

The dough after mixing

The remaining dough ingredients are pretty typical – yeast, water, honey, and salt. The honey provides a nice subtle sweetness and helps to enrich the color of the finished bread. I decided to experiment with a specialty pink salt that I picked up on a recent visit to Sur La Table. I must admit that I’m a neophyte when it comes to salt and didn’t have enough appreciation for this humble but essential ingredient. Although I know it is important to how our food tastes, I can’t say that I’ve ever done a taste test to compare different varieties, of which there are many. I read a very interesting article which includes an interview with Mark Bitterman, author of the book titled Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral (a James Beard award winner by the way). I’m now intrigued and looking to get my hands on the book as I rethink my use of kosher salt and begin exploring other types of salt to use in my cooking.

If you’ve read and used enough of Rose’s yeast bread recipe’s you will be familiar with her basic techniques. The highlights for this recipe are a pretty rapid first rise – mine took less than an hour to double, followed by a beatdown and shaped second rise which also took less than an hour. I then popped it in the oven for 40 minutes at 375°.

 

The finished Flaxseed Loaf…time for a sandwich

On a closing note, I had a “duh” moment this weekend so I want to share that bit of learning with you. I finally realized that in addition to checking out physical books from my local library, I can also borrow e-books for free. Our Los Angeles library system (and many others as I understand it) enable you to borrow Kindle books which you can read on any Kindle-compatible device. If you don’t already have a copy of Rose’s book and want to take it for a free test drive, check to see if you can get it through your local library’s e-book lending service.

 

Are you finding ways to get more whole grains and healthful ingredients into your baked goods?  How are you doing it, and how is it working for you?

Young African-American woman with beautiful glowing skin

It’s Time to Clean Up for Makeup 

This post is somewhat overdue but as they say, it’s better late than never.  Many of us have considered changes to our skincare routines as we started the new year in search of a more flawless complexion.  If you wear makeup, there is one change you can make independent of your skincare routine which has the potential to improve both your complexion and the way your makeup looks.  That change is to establish a regular routine for cleaning your makeup brushes, sponges, and related tools.  Here comes a scary bit of information for you:

Only 61% of women are cleaning their makeup brushes once a month, if at all according to a recent survey. Those who do clean their brushes do not clean them as often as beauty experts recommend.

This info came from a Buzzfeed article that you can access here.

gross-thingsI have been in the habit of cleaning my brushes monthly but must confess that I now know that I need to increase my frequency.  If you’re wondering what the bad things are that happen when you don’t clean often enough, they are summarized in the Infographic here.  It covers all of the items you’d expect related to breakouts, infections, and even worse the risk of pest infestations.  The other hazard I want to mention is that when your brushes are dirty, you’re not going to get the makeup results you desire.  If your eyeshadow application is muddy for example, you can bet that your brushes aren’t clean.  I’ll share some solutions below, but if you’d like the gory details beyond the summary in my infographic, you can click here for the full article by Summer Arlexis.

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The $424 Chikuhodo P-8

Proper brush cleaning doesn’t only provide skincare and makeup application benefits — it will also protect your investment in your brushes.  Proper care of your brushes means that they will last and perform their function for many years.  The investment in a single brush can be significant.  For example, on the Beautylish website prices for a single powder brush range from a low of $28 to a high of $424 for a handmade Chikuhodo Premium Line P-8 brush.  This uber expensive brush is made of the rare long hairs from blue squirrels.

So with that as background, how often should you be cleaning your brushes?  I thought monthly was good, but makeup guru Bobbi Brown in an interview with Allure magazine provided different, more specific guidance which is as follows:

 

For concealer and foundation brushes, at least once a week to prevent a buildup of product. And because these brushes are used on your face, the cleaner, the better. Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month, while all others can be washed once a month.

blog-image_dsc0001Now that we know all of the reasons why we should be cleaning our brushes regularly, and that regularly really varies based on where and how the brush is used, I’d like to share some of the tools and products that I use to clean and maintain my brushes.  These are the products that I use regularly and actually pay my hard earned money for.  You may find other products that you prefer, but hopefully, this will give you some ideas for building or updating your cleaning regimen.

goat-engl-lav_largeFirst off, you need some sort of cleanser or shampoo for your brushes and Beautyblender if you use one.  I have tried both liquid and solid cleansers and find that there is much less product waste with a solid.  For my brushes, I’ve been using a goat milk based shampoo which provides conditioning benefits but doesn’t leave a residue.  It also has a bit of tea tree oil as an anti-bacterial.  You simply wet your brush and swish it around in the soap to create a lather.  In the past, I’ve purchased this from Beautylish and Dermstore, although it appears that neither of them has it in stock at the moment.  Worst case it appears that you can buy it on the London Brush Company website.  One additional benefit is that it comes in several different fragrances.  I’ve tried the Lemon Zest and English Lavender and both make the brush cleaning chore more pleasant.  London Brush Company also makes a vegan version if you object to goat milk.

s1839018-main-lheroBy the way, when I regularly used a Beautyblender, I used their solid cleanser and had good results with it.  I had to use way more product with their liquid, and I did not like the dispenser.  It was difficult to keep it clean and to dispense the product.  Since purchasing my Kevyn Aucoin foundation brush I only use my Beautyblender for travel so the solid cleanser is also much more convenient.

productphotography-300dpi281of329 For the gym or when traveling, I use the Japonesque brush cleaning wipes (see image below).  These are great because they are individually packaged.  I also have the Color Switch Duo by Vera Mona (above and at right)  which is a really clever idea.  It is a dry sponge within a can that you wipe your eyeshadow brushes on when you switch colors so that the colors don’t become muddy.  When the sponge becomes dirty you insert a replacement.  The duo has a smaller sponge in the center that you dampen and use for wet shadow application.  I don’t recall where I originally purchased this, but now you can buy them from Sephora with their packaging or directly from Vera Mona.  This tool has really helped with my eyeshadow application.

One other cleansing product in my arsenal is Laura Mercier’s Brush Cleanser.  This is a spray that you spritz onto the brush and then wipe away the dirt and makeup with a paper towel.  This is a product that I put in the same category as Japonesque wipes — great for a quickie cleaning but not as thorough in my view as a full shampooing.

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The Wayne Goss Anniversary Set

There are three tools that are an essential part of my brush cleaning regimen.  These are the items that assist in the cleaning process and help me prolong the life of my brushes.  This is really important to me as about a year and a half ago I replaced and expanded my collection of day to day brushes.  I started out with the Anniversary Set from Wayne Goss (thanks to Beautylish for their 3 payment plan).  I later added the Holiday or #00, the #11 Powder, and  Air brushes.  I also received the brow set in my 2015 Beautylish Lucky Box so I have quite the collection of Goss brushes now.

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Some of the tools and products I use to keep my brushes and makeup clean

The first essential tool is my brush tree.  Benjabelle makes a variety of these which you can see on the Beautylish website.  They’re also available on Amazon.  This image shows exactly how I use it.  benjabelleOnce I’ve washed a brush I cover it with a brush guard (my second essential tool shown above) and hang the brush upside down to dry.  The brush guards help your brushes maintain or regain their shape after washing.  The brush tree allows you to hang the brushes with the bristles down so that you don’t end up with water in the ferrule which can ultimately compromise your brush by loosening the very part that holds all of those little hairs together and is where the brush head is connected to the handle.  I remember back in the day not being careful about this and the brush head falling off of a Bobbi Brown brush (or two).  I was so uninformed about brush care that I actually soaked my brushes in the sink — please do not do this.  61i7ynxt1vl-_sx522_The final tool in my cleaning arsenal is the Cityvivo Brushegg which you can get on Amazon for $2.99.  This is a handy tool for safely “scrubbing” your brushes.  It’s like a washboard for your brush and helps get the makeup and grime out.

Finally, you’ll notice in the image of tools and products two other items that I keep on hand.  Both are by a company called BeautySoClean and they’re also available at Beautylish.  Not only will bacteria turn up on your brushes and tools, it also ends up on the surface of your products (think about those in-store testers – it’s the same thing).  The sanitizer wipes are a quick, easy way to wipe off your makeup products like lipsticks.  I also use them to wipe down my tweezers and eyelash curler for example.  The sanitizer mist is used to clean dry products like eyeshadow without altering the product you’re using it on.  You just spray it on — it dries fast and then you’ll know that shadow or powder blush is clean and fresh.

So, now that you’ve read this post I’d love it if you would take a moment to participate in a quick one question poll about your brush cleaning habits.  Results are anonymous, and there isn’t any judging going on here.  You will see the updated results with your answers included when you finish.  I hope I’ve given you useful information to update your cleaning routine if needed.  I’d love to hear about your favorite cleaning products and what impact your brush cleaning routine has had on your skin’s overall health and appearance.