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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mid-Week Musings

I'm making a few small changes to my blog. I am going to use Wednesday's post to feature things that have caught my attention and that I want to share with you. Sometimes it will be a story, another time it may be an observation or a link to another blog that has a special recipe or has something really interesting to report. I'll also be sharing utensils or appliances that make work in the kitchen easier or the finished result prettier to look at. The important thing for you to know is that whatever appears here on a Wednesday will not be a sponsored post, and if I'm sharing a book or a product it is because I want to, not because I'm being paid to do so. I have several interesting things I want to share with you tonight, among them a book review and two crafts that are perfect for the Easter holiday. Let's get started.

Bruno Cassini - A Florentine Tale
Rosalind Trotter

Every week I have the good fortune to join a group of writers for coffee, camaraderie and a discussion of craft and trade. One of our members, Rosalind Trotter, has published her first novel and I wanted to let you know about it. Like her title character, Bruno Cassini, Rosalind was raised in post war Florence, Italy. Bruno's story and the rich weaving of his dilemma are told with Florence as a backdrop. Those of you who are familiar with the city and its history, including the disastrous Arno River flood, will have a rush of déjà vu as you follow Bruno through the streets of Florence. Those who have never visited the city will be charmed by Trotter's descriptions of its streets and the people who populate them. The story, however, is much more than a travelogue. Bruno is the son of a philanderer who makes no attempt to hide his liaisons. Listening to other men in the family, who fault his father's behavior only for his lack of discretion, Bruno concludes that no damage would have been done if his mother did not know of the affairs. He promises himself that his wife will never experience his mother's pain and swears he will never be like his father. Bruno becomes a teacher, marries and has a child, but a chance encounter with a former American student leads to a passionate affair and a pregnancy, that causes him to re-evaluate the man he has become and the value he places on family and tradition. The role of women and the mores of American and Italian culture are also compared as the affair progresses. There are no great surprises in this book, but that makes for an easy and interesting read. Rosalind Trotter handles dialogue and plot progression well and I think you will enjoy her first book, Bruno Cassini. It can be found here, on Amazon.

Eggheads with Cress Hair

I found these darling "eggheads" at the Nurture Store and thought you might want to consider them for the Easter holiday. They are awfully cute and I wanted to share them with you. You can find instructions for making them, here.

How to Make Vibrantly Colored, Naturally
Dyed Easter Eggs
Holiday Project from the Kitchn

Instructions for these vibrantly colored eggs can be found, here. The dyes are made from food and spices that can be found in every kitchen. The vibrancy of the colors is amazing. Why not give it a try?

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...A group I belong to had a themed luncheon today. Our goal was to recreate an Easter dinner as it would have been served in the 1950's. Those of you who came of age in the 50's would view the meal as retro. The canned ham and pineapple upside-down cake would be dead giveaways. Those of you who were not yet born would consider the meal to be REALLY retro. By luck of the draw, my contribution ended up being the upside-down cake. I used a Better Homes and Gardens recipe, well-known to housewives and young cooks of the time, and because I had made it before I considered the cake to be easy duty. I did depart a bit from the standard presentation. The cake is usually made in a cast iron skillet. I passed on that because there were twelve of us and most skillet cakes can't feed that number of people. The recipe I used is scaled to feed a larger group and it uses a standard baking pan. However, when the finished cake is sliced, it looks like the "real" thing. For those of you who have never sampled this, a pineapple upside-down cake consists of a mosaic layer of caramelized pineapple that is topped with a single layer of yellow cake. When the cake is inverted, the caramelized fruit layer ends up on top. These skillet cakes were popularized in the 20's and 30's and they are still regularly served in some areas of the country. There are also families that make them part of their Easter dinner for nostalgia's sake. This is an easy cake to make, and, if you do not already have a recipe for one, you might want to add this version to your files. Here is how the cake is made.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Two Recipes for Greek-Style Easter Cookies - Koulourakia

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I have been blogging for such a long time now, that it is getting harder to find new recipes, particularly ethnic recipes, for the holiday table. I decided to search out cookie recipes this year and one of the first I stumbled on was a Greek Easter cookie called Koulourakia. The only problem with that choice was selecting which of the staggering number of recipes for the cookie I wanted to use. In the end, I settled on two. Koulourakia is a barely sweet cookie that can be shaped according to the whim of the cook. Traditionally, however, the dough is twisted and sprinkled with sesame seeds before being baked. In theory, the cookies are wonderful when served with coffee or tea or nibbled while sipping a sweet liqueur. They, at least the ones created by my hands, are a bit like a soft biscotti or a madeleine. I thought the first batch I made, despite the addition of orange juice, was too mildly flavored and I would have enjoyed them more had some zest been worked into the cookie dough. Never easily deterred, and convinced that a million Greeks can't be wrong, I tried a second recipe that seemed more flavorful. I really liked the second batch of cookies. They were not overly sweet but they had a flavor that was more to my liking. While both cookies are buttery and would be perfect with coffee or tea, my personal preference is for the second cookie which was developed by the test kitchens of Imperial Sugar. I do hope you'll give one or both of these recipes a try. Here is how they are made.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hollywood-Style Hot Cross Buns

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...There is no truth to the rumor that I'm on a quest to find the world's greatest Hot Cross Bun. It may, however,  be true that I'm infirm of purpose when I find a new recipe for them that looks better than my current favorite. I think that's what happened here. I was lured by a gorgeous photo and then roped and tied by the name, Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns. My first thought was California but I quickly learned I was way off base. As it turns out, Paul Hollywood is an English baker and celebrity chef, who best known for being a judge on the BBC One's The Great British Bake Off. Pictures of his Hot Cross Buns are all over the internet and while his buns, which require 3 rises, are more time consuming than most to make, I can tell you they are delicious and worth every second they take to assemble. They are my favorite, at least for this year. I'm not going to repeat the history of the buns tonight, but if you are curious, I included it in my first post about them and you can find that information, here. I hope you will give tonight's recipe a try. The buns have a decidedly fluffy texture and the dried fruit and spices give them a well-developed flavor. The dough is quite damp, so you will want to oil the surface on which you knead it to prevent sticking. Rest assured, if you keep at it, the dough will come together and you will have lovely fragrant buns to serve your family and friends. Here is how the buns are made.


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