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Book Blog: The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison

Posted by on Jan 17, 2020 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

whole fromage

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

New life goal: become a cheese knight.

That is a real thing in France, if you are so blessed by one of many local brotherhoods/sisterhoods of local cheese. The facts of cheese knighthood are among many very real delights described in this book by Kathe Lison, a Wisconsin native who arose from humble beginnings of Kraft boxed macaroni and cheese to explore the cultural and historical nuances of French fromage. If you’re a history geek (ME!) who loves cheese (ME!) with a yearning to travel, even if vicariously through literature (ME! ME!) this book will hit all of your sweet spots (and savory spots besides).

I found out about this book by listening to a podcast of the author in conversation with travel guru Rick Steves upon the subject of French cheese. The book delves much deeper into the subject, and does so in an easy-to-relate-to breezy tone. Chapters focus on cheeses such as Salers, chevre in southwestern France, Camembert and the mythology around it, Reblochon, Comte, Roquefort and its caves, sheep cheese of the Pyrenees, and of course, Langre and its cheese knights. There is a great deal about traditional methods of cheesemaking, the ever-changing industrialization of it, and the peculiarities of AOC labels and terroir.

This was my first book of 2020 and I hope it sets my destiny for the year–one filled with delicious artisanal cheese.

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Bready or Not: Fougasse

Posted by on Jan 15, 2020 in Blog, Bready or Not, French, yeast bread | 0 comments

Bready or Not goes full-on bready with this week’s feature: Fougasse, a French style of bread fragrant with herbs and formed into two leaf-shaped loaves.

Bready or Not: Fougasse

I first encountered this bread on the Great British Bake Off, where it was presented as a technical challenge with minimal instructions. (I highly recommend watching season 4 episode 6 prior to baking, if you can, as it provides great tips and visuals of the bread).

Bready or Not: Fougasse

I found this bread dough surprisingly easy to work with. I opted to make it in my Kitchen Aid, which is in line with the original recipe, but it could certainly be mixed in a bread machine or by hand.

Bready or Not: Fougasse

The end result reminded me of focaccia with the herby, salty flavor, but I found the leaf shape of the fougasse to be incredibly fun. It really makes for a great presentation.

To use Bake Off terminology, this bread is a technical challenge that also works as a showstopper.

Bready or Not: Fougasse

Modified from Paul Hollywood’s recipe as published on the BBC’s site.

Bready or Not: Fougasse

This herby bread is of French origin and designed to make two large loaves that resembled big, flat leaves. Recipe is modified from Paul Hollywood, as featured on the Great British Bake Off. Amounts are provided below in cups and in weight, with a recommendation to follow the weight for more accuracy.
Course: Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine: French
Keyword: french, yeast bread
Author: Beth Cato

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets
  • parchment paper
  • pizza cutter
  • pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing and drizzling
  • 500 grams bread flour plus more for dusting (1 lb, 2 ounces)
  • 10 grams fine sea salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 7 grams instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 350 ml warm water (12 ounces)
  • 4 teaspoons chopped rosemary plus more to finish
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • fine cornmeal for dusting, or substitute semolina flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt flakes to finish

Instructions

  • Grease a large container with some olive oil. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a mixer with a dough hook (or with a dough whisk and arm muscle), combine the bread flour and sea salt. Add yeast, followed by the measured olive oil and most of the warm water. Mix on low speed. As the dough comes together, slowly add the rest of the water. Continue to mix on medium speed for about 7 or 8 minutes. Add the herbs and make sure they are evenly distributed. Dough should be quite elastic and easy to work with.
  • Dump the dough into the oiled container. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until at least doubled, about an hour. Dough should be bouncy and shiny.
  • Dust a work surface with extra flour and cornmeal (or semolina). Tip the dough onto the surface. It should be loose and flowing. Divide dough in half.
  • Place each piece of dough on the prepared parchment. Spread into a flat oval, then use a pizza cutter to slice twice down the middle (to make a stem) with six cuts on the side of each leaf (see photograph for example). Gently stretch out the dough to emphasize the holes.
  • Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and allow to set for 20 minutes as the oven preheats to 430-degrees.
  • Brush or spray additional olive oil atop each leaf, then sprinkle on the dried oregano.
  • Bake for about 7 minutes, then switch positions of bread on the oven racks. Continue baking another 8 minutes or so (15 to 20 minutes total) until each fougasse is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven. Immediately brush more olive oil on top, followed by a sprinkling of sea salt.
  • Bread is delicious fresh or at room temperature. Loaves can be well-wrapped and frozen for later enjoyment.

OM NOM NOM!

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    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    Posted by on Jan 8, 2020 in Blog, blondies, Bready or Not, british, chocolate | 0 comments

    Millionaire Shortbread. Gorgeous. Delicious. A little bit of extra effort to make, but SO WORTH IT.

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    I wanted to concoct the best-possible Millionaire Shortbread. This involved strenuous testing of recipes. Much baking. Much reliance on test subjects (husband and his co-workers).

    The resulting feedback? I wrote it down.
    “This shortbread is enjoyed, and feared.”
    “To call them excellent would be an insult to your wife.”

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    So yeah. The test subjects approved. I personally would rank this up there with my best all-time bakes, because it really combines the best of everything.

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    The shortbread layer is firm yet soft. THEN THAT CARAMEL. It is thick, luscious, and sweet. The chocolate provides the perfect balance, especially with the help of some Maldon salt flakes.

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    Do note that the ganache needs to be semisweet chocolate, or an even darker variety. Milk chocolate is just too sweet against that thick caramel. I say that, and I usually prefer milk chocolate.

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    I wish I could say how long this keeps in the fridge, but my test subjects were a bit too voracious to provide perspective on that point.

     

    Bready or Not Original: Millionaire Shortbread

    This Millionaire Shortbread is pure rich indulgence, and so worth the extra effort to make!
    Course: Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine: British
    Keyword: bars, chocolate, cookies
    Author: Beth Cato

    Ingredients

    Shortbread Crust

    • 1 cup unsalted butter 2 cubes, softened
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/3 cup light brown sugar packed
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Caramel

    • 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
    • 14 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
    • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    Chocolate Ganache

    • 11 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
    • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 stick
    • Maldon sea salt flakes for top, optional

    Instructions

    Shortbread base

    • Preheat oven at 350-degrees. Line a 13x9 baking pan with aluminum foil and apply nonstick spray or butter.
    • In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Follow up with the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Scrape bottom of bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
    • Gradually work in flour along with the salt. Don't overmix. It should still be crumbly. Drop dough into prepared pan and compress into an even layer. (A piece of waxed paper and a heavy glass make this easier.)
    • Bake shortbread layer for 20 to 25 minutes, until edges are turning golden brown. Set pan aside to cool while the next layer is made.

    Caramel

    • In a large saucepan at medium heat, stir together the condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Stir constantly as it rises to a boil. Immediately drop heat to low, and continue to stir nonstop for about 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture turns a deep caramel color and thickens up; watch out, the caramel can spit out of the pan at times!
    • Remove pot from heat and promptly stir in vanilla extract and salt.
    • Pour caramel over the shortbread, using an uneven spatula or knife if needed to smooth it into an even layer. Cool pan for several hours until it reaches room temperature, or set in fridge to chill.

    Ganache topping

    • In a microwave-safe bowl (or, alternatively, on the stove top in a pot) melt together the chocolate chips and butter. Once it can be stirred smooth, pour over the caramel. Spread out into an even layer. If desired, sprinkle Maldon sea salt flakes over the top.
    • Chill in fridge to let chocolate harden for at least 30 minutes. Use foil to lift contents of pan onto a cutting board. Let chocolate warm again, just a touch, perhaps for 5 or 10 minutes, before slicing into bars (otherwise, the chocolate will crack rather than be sliced through).
    • Store bars in fridge with waxed paper between layers. Keeps for days.

    OM NOM NOM!

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      Read an Excerpt of my Monarchies of Mau story

      Posted by on Jan 6, 2020 in anthology:story, Blog | 0 comments

      Tales of Excellent CatsWhether you just love a good fantasy story or perhaps are looking to delve into a new RPG setting for 2020, check out this excerpt of my story “By Footpad and Clenched Paw” over at Onyx Path Publishing. My story, about a young cleric with a chronic health condition and a murder to solve, is set in the fantasy world of the Monarchies of Mau. Think fantasy world with magic and quests and all the classic trappings, along with mysterious leftovers from human civilization. Oh, and giant cats. (If you prefer dogs, look up Pugmire, the elevated-canine aspect of this setting.)

      This story is a special one, a tribute to my beloved cat Porom who died of kidney disease a little over two years ago.

      #SFWAPro

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      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      Posted by on Jan 1, 2020 in Blog, Bready or Not, cookies, French | 0 comments

      Let’s welcome 2020 in grand style: with French shortbread called almond sables!

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      I’ve made a lot of shortbread in my day. All varieties. This is shortbread that’s gone up in level. It tastes fancy. It’s a French recipe, so that’s only appropriate, right?

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      I highly recommend you use President-brand unsalted butter for this recipe. My recipe is actually modified from a version they used in advertisements. However, you can use other butters, just make sure you use unsalted and only 7 ounces. That means you’ll chop off a tablespoon from the standard American butter stick.

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      I made these cookies twice to get the recipe the way I wanted it. I used salted butter the first time, and the cookies tasted noticeably salty. Not just to me, but to other eaters as well.

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      Because these cookies have such few ingredients, the few that are present really have a chance to shine. They are buttery, mildly nutty, with a soft, sandy texture.

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      I liked using my fluted cookie cutters for these–that way the sugar coating has more nooks and crannies to cling to!

      Recipe modified from a President butter advertisement.

      Bready or Not: Almond Sable Cookies

      These French-style shortbread cookies taste delicate and refined. Note that the dough needs at least a few hours to chill prior to baking. Modified from a recipe by President Butter.
      Course: Dessert, Snack
      Cuisine: French
      Keyword: cookies, shortbread
      Servings: 20 cookies
      Author: Beth Cato

      Equipment

      • small cookie cutter
      • parchment paper

      Ingredients

      • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 7- ounces President unsalted butter softened, or substitute other unsalted butter
      • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
      • 3/4 cup white sugar divided
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1 vanilla bean or substitute 1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
      • 1 egg yolk

      Instructions

      • Toast the almonds prior to beginning cookies. Preheat oven at 325-degrees. Spread almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool for a few minutes; turn off oven.
      • Measure out flour in a small bowl.
      • Use a food processor to grind almonds to a fine crumb; don't process for too long or it'll turn to almond butter. Mix almond crumbs with flour.
      • In a big bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, and salt, until smooth again. Add vanilla bean (or equivalent) and egg yolk. Gradually work in flour mixture. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead 3 or 4 times to form a cohesive ball.
      • Place dough between two large sheets of parchment paper and compress dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Enshroud in plastic wrap. Transfer to fridge to set, at least 2 hours but as long as 2 days.
      • Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Line large baking sheet with fresh parchment paper.
      • Roll out dough to closer to 1/4-inch thickness, then set aside top parchment sheet. Use a small round cookie cutter to cut dough, placing rounds spaced-out on sheet pan. Re-roll dough scraps to use up the rest, adding a touch of water, if necessary, to bring dough together again.
      • Bake until edges are just turning golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Measure out remaining 1/2 cup white sugar in a bowl. Use a spatula to dip warm cookies into sugar to coat top and sides. Place on rack to cool cookies completely.
      • Cookies keep well in sealed container for up to 3 days.

      OM NOM NOM!

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        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        Posted by on Dec 24, 2019 in apples, Blog, Bready or Not, breakfast, cake | 0 comments

        Bready or Not is being gifted a day early this year since Wednesday falls on Christmas Day!

        ‘Dump cake’ is not the most appetizing of terms, but I assure you, this Walnut Apple Dump Cake is delicious. It’s also quick and easy to throw together if you need something for breakfast or dessert on Christmas Day or on New Year’s a week away.

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        Dump cake is the broad term that encompasses regional dishes like crisps, cobblers, brown betties, etcetera. It means the fruit is dropped into a dish and some kind of bready topping (flour, oats, granola, dumplings) is baked over it.

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        In this case, the topping is a thin, golden cake. It’s enough to encase the apples and lock in moisture and flavor–plus add in some chewiness and crunch. The walnuts especially add to the latter.

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        This is not a cake to be tidily cut into pieces. This is a cake that is scooped out onto a plate or bowl. Hence, I advise NOT using foil to line the pan as I do with most other casserole dish-style recipes. The spoon will just tear up the foil. Plus, the dish will clean up pretty easily afterward.

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        I also advise that you eat this along with vanilla ice cream. It really does make for the perfect pairing, especially if you’re eating the cake warm.

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        Bready or Not Original: Walnut Apple Dump Cake

        This easy-to-make cake is meant to be scooped out, not neatly cut. Delicious on its own or with vanilla ice cream!
        Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
        Keyword: apple, cake
        Author: Beth Cato

        Equipment

        • 9x13 pan

        Ingredients

        • 6 medium apples like Granny Smith or Pink Lady, or a mix
        • 2 1/4 cups brown sugar packed, divided
        • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
        • 1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks
        • 2 large eggs
        • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        • 2 cups all-purpose flour
        • 1 cup walnuts chopped, divided

        Instructions

        • Preheat oven at 350-degrees. Use nonstick spray or grease with butter the inside of a 13x9 pan (note: don't line with foil).
        • Peel and slice apples and place in pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon over apples.
        • In a large bowl, cream together butter and remaining brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Follow up with flour and 1/2 cup of walnuts.
        • Drop dollops of dough all over apples, covering as much as possible. Sprinkle remaining walnuts over top.
        • Bake for about 40 minutes. Top should be golden and apples tender when poked with a fork.
        • Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Store covered in foil, in fridge or on counter top, for up to three days. Fantastic with ice cream!

        OM NOM NOM!

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