Apr 8 2014

Neighborhood Bread

Since Forth and SpitfireMoms have become a part of my life the last year+ I’ve been struggling a bit to figure out what goes here when there’s so much that goes there.

Tonight, though, I wanted to share a game changer. It’s my neighborhood bread recipe.

It started at Mike & Jenny‘s, a family two blocks over, who got the recipe from Mike’s mom Gayle. M&J baked it often and passed the recipe on and on and on. When we were all regularly haunting one another’s houses before kindergarten sapped some of the strength of the Playgroup, the bread became a frequent player in our gatherings.

I made it for this recent Thanksgiving and served it with Rare Bird Preserves.

Today I made it again. A mention of herb butter and an easy bread recipe piqued enough interest that sharing the recipe seemed like a good dead easily done.

Here’s where I go to get the recipe.
photo 5

Yup. Everytime. I keep my next door neighbor’s text close to my heart.

Why? Because as I said to my friend Johanna who dared me to describe it in 10 words: 5 ingredients including water. Stir twice. Rise. Dump. Bake. Eat.

photo 2

I’ve yet to screw it up and I, eventually, screw up most things I bake. I’ve even audibled in whole wheat flour and it’s been awesome.

Today I forgot to bake it. It needs two hours to rise. I accidentally left it for eight. EIGHT HOURS. And it turned out perfectly. CopperTop thanked me for baking it. And she pretty much lives on air.

The coolest part about this bread, I think, is that storage is easy. Prop it cut side down on the counter and it’s good overnight, at least.

photo 3


Magic, yummy bread. So easy. Get to it. You’re welcome.


Dec 23 2013

Simple Infused Syrups, Simple Homemade Gifts

We met our dear pals last night to view insane Christmas lights and eat at Chili’s. Because that, to me, is just about the best holiday tradition ever. These friends gave us some lovely cocktail bitters last year. I wanted to make them a little something as a token of affection and acknowledgement of what a banner year they’ve had.

Flavored simple syrups to add to cocktails and other drinks are so yummy and so easy, and I had everything I needed on hand.

I settled on:


Saturday nights were made for culinary lavender.


Saturday nights were made for infusing rosemary.

Ginger & black peppercorn

Sunday afternoon ginger and black peppercorn experimentation.

For each one, it was a matter of simmering some sugar and water and a bit of something lovely. I went with floral, herbal, and zesty options to offer some variety to cocktails. A French 75 with the lavender? Ginger with lemon and bourbon? A rosemary gin fizz?

Each batch makes more than anyone could need, so a jarful can go along to parties and family visits. And, there is even some left for us to play with too.

Three very simple syrups.

Nov 6 2013

Test Kitchen: Premade Parfaits

We’re all about testing out some pre-made meals for Thanksgiving  week, when we’ll have a ton of people here on different time zones. We want them to eat well and feel welcome but also don’t want to be trying to cook breakfast all day long. Here’s a solution we’re excited about.


We returned to our dear San Francisco this past weekend for an utterly charming wedding. And while we happily brought the CopperTop with us over the summer, for this quick trip we opted to exercise the Grandma Clause.

The Grandma Clause is the magic truth that, most of the time, Grandma wants you to go away so she can develop secret languages, break established rules, fiddle about with bedtimes, and otherwise cause good-natured trouble with the grandbaby. We get a weekend with friends in a great city, Grandma gets a weekend of merry and mischief making, and Loie gets more fun that she knows what to do with.

As a thank you, and to ensure my mom took care of herself, too, Brett suggested getting her yogurt parfaits. My mom loves her some yogurt parfaits.

Instead of picking some up at the store, I decided to make use of the ample mason jar selection we have (At some point, Brett will can stuff, I know). I started to Pin and search and, for once, decided I’d just wing it. Though, this blog has some tips on freezing them which would make it even more family-invasion friendly.


They made for such pretty additions to the fridge and my mom genuinely gasped when she saw them.


I opted to make some with vanilla Greek yogurt and some with plain. In most I added either blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries or dried cherries (I wanted to do blueberries but none were available). I also did a couple smaller mason jars with just yogurt and granola.


We have a great grocery store, Caputo’s, up the way that had big containers of granola. The bulk option at Whole Foods would also be great.

I filled the jars a bit between 1/3 and 1/2 full with yogurt. (The vanilla poured much, much smoother, hence the vanilla leading the photos). Then a hefty layer of granola and enough fruit to fill to just below where the jar narrows. It felt like making those sand sculptures from summers past that are now all the rage in weddings (but definitely NOT the wedding we went to).

I’ve since seen options that include putting the granola in a separate, smaller mason jar. The key, to me though, was to allow it to be edible in the one jar so you’re not washing MORE stuff. And, the clinking of the spoon against the class is a special kind of satisfying.

My mom didn’t even wait for us to leave before getting her parfait on. Cheers to Brett for the idea and my mom for gifting us a weekend away.


Sep 14 2013

Test Kitchen: Perfect Pancakes

Not gonna lie. I have been a pancake mix girl my whole life. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s so dang easy. I’ve upgraded over the years and now eschew Bisquick for some fancier brand from Whole Foods.

When we were in California, I wanted to make pancakes but didn’t want to buy mix we’d use once and then leave behind.

Homemade? I assumed it was, you know, a thing.

It’s not. I feel a fool.

I read a few recipes and their reviews and settled on this one the sharer said came from her grandma. I trust grandmas.

They were silly easy and silly good. Brett pronounced them “the best pancakes ever.” I felt domestic and goddess-y.

Once back in Oak Park I tried them again. Disaster. I used baking soda instead of baking powder. I don’t know why. I then spent 30 minutes trying to figure out if I had accidentally poisoned everyone with baking soda. I didn’t.

Last night I tried again. Getting the pan the right heat is always a mess unless you use Brett’s “sacrificial minicake” method. This time I decided to thoughtfully do it rather than heat it up too quickly, burn a few, then turn it down and curse. On our stove, between the 3 & 4 but a dash closer to the 3 seems to be the right heat using a non-stick. Yes, we have a huge cast iron griddle thing. No I didn’t use it. That shit is heavy.

That 3 not quite 3.5? That was perfect.

They were perfect.

Perfect pancakes.

Loie ate 5. FIVE.

Perfect Pancakes
from the mysterious dakota kelly

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center (this really does help!) and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth. (Seriously, mix that stuff for real.)

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat (we use a non-stick pan, no butter, and not medium high heat). Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides (do that thing where you wait for legit bubbles) and serve hot.

Two notes:
1. I double sift. Sift the flour first before measuring and then sift again
2. Many reviewers suggest adding a dash of vanilla and I think that’s a grand idea.
You’re welcome. Go make them. Then ponder opening a B&B.

Jul 22 2012

C’est Marveilleux

I have done well in my resolution to gorge on bread products this month. But the scholastic in me requires that I try to learn a bit about what will soon make up 85% of my innards.

In the weeks before we left I had the chance to make baguettes, brioche, and ciabatta with a friend at Cook au Vin in Chicago (ugh on the name). Working the baguette dough involved throwing it from over my head onto the table as hard as possible only to then swoop it back up as fast as possible to encourage the large air pockets. Ten minutes of that meant I couldn’t make a fist for two days after. So I do have mad respect for the bakers in the world.

In France, there are two options for respecting.

A boulangerie would be responsible for unsweetened yeast breads like baguettes and brioches. And pain au chocolate like this, which frequently is in my belly:

(Ahem, only one is frequently in my belly. Brett digs them too)

A pâtisserie would have sweet, unleavened pastries like gallettes and tartes. A master pasty chef, or maître pâtissier, must be employed by the establishment for it to earn the government-controlled title of pâtisserie. I can really, really get behind a country that puts so much thought into the quality of its sweets. If you have a chance, there’s a wonderful film, Kings of Pastry, which follows several chefs efforts to achieve the M.O.F. The M.O.F. (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) is awarded to only the Best Craftsmen in France after an arduous three-day test many chefs spend years training for.

In a typical French provincial town like ours the boulangerie and the patisserie would have been separate shops up until the 1950s though now they are often sold in the same place.

Rânes now has a combo, and an incredible one at that.

Honestly, I don’t know how one of the 1000 people who live here rocks breads and pastries so hard, but she does.

I’ve had many a delightful pain au chocolate, with incredible, flaky brioche as well as a rich and wide array of incredible breads. We’re in there daily so I believe I can speak with confident authority on how silly good their bread is, as well as their tolerance of my bastardized French. Je m’excuse!

But hey combo place that does it all, how are you? This was tonight’s dessert:

Pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, cherry, awesome. So awesome.

But friends. FRIENDS. Nothing prepared me for the Marveilleux, the pastry so inticing it is PLURAL and has changed my scholarship to fanaticism. Yes, it means marvelous and wonderful and all those like-minded words you can find on thesaurus.com. And no, I have no photos of my own from today because the singular Marveilluex that was brought into La Balayrie was summarily destroyed by the inhabitants. A stock photo seemed appropriate because of the total obliteration of the tasty bites. But, luckily, David Lebovitz digs ‘em.


The base is meringue. I had no idea. I went strictly based on the chocolate-flecked exterior. I freaking love meringue (and also might freaking love the chocolate buttercream inside, just to be forthright). I also love how this describes meringue as unfashionable compared to the haut macaroon. The writer, in explaining the new(ish) Au Merveilleux de Fred pastry shops in Paris and Lille, shared that “the finished cakes have names like Le Merveilleux, L’Incroyable and L’Impensable, referring to the period after the French Revolution when young people known as les incroyables and les merveilleux dressed extravagantly, took on odd mannerisms and refused to pronounce the letter “r” (as in Revolution), which they said had done too much harm.” Oh, I don’t quote people often, but I’m quoting that.

Yesterday my brother in law asked about how I imagined this trip will impact our world when we return. I didn’t have a great answer as we want this kind of trip to just be part of the way our world works. I know the slower pace has resonated with me, as has less TV and more laundry hung on a line. But, I can say with confidence that the merveilluex is coming home with me. If I know you now, you may know this recipe as a staple. But know that if I may know you someday, this may just be what you get.